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French TV (USA) - 1994 - "Virtue in Futility"
(55 min, "Pretentious Dinosaur")


Mike Sary       - bass (the bandleader)
Fenner Castner  - drums
Paul Nevitt     - keyboards
Dean Zigoris    - guitars
Artie Bratton   - guitars
Bruce Kromber   - sax & clarinet
Reid Jahn       - sax
Richard Brooner - trumpet
Howie Gano      - keyboards
Paul Ramsey     - keyboards

This is the third album by a unique band, which create its very own music, using the elements of all the main genres of Progressive Rock - Jazz Fusion (a mix of Jazz Fusion, RIO and Avantgarde, that's more correctly), Art Rock and Progressive Metal. This is the first CD, which the band has released on their own label "Pretentious Dinosaur", which, by the way, collaborates with a small distributive company "Fainting Goat". Quite interesting titles, no? Incidentally, they quite corresponds to the music of French TV, full of advenurous humour. The second album of French TV will be released by the small Italian label "Mellow" in the February of the Zero Year, whereas their first work is still remains in the shadows.

The album / Tracklist.

1. Hey, Real Executives Jump From the 50th Floor is a complex instrumental piece, full of varied moods, changes of thematic lines and tempos. Mostly leading by electric guitar virtuostic riffs, solos and passages, the first move contains also some nice piano improvisations. Later after the several beautiful piano interplays, this composition moves into the realm that's typical for the Symphonic Art Rock style. However, all guitar themes and arrangements are very adventorus here always. As very typical for French TV, it is quite difficult to describe thier separate compositions (including this one) briefly. Exceptionally original mix of several diverse "directions" of all the three "chief" genres of Progressive Rock - probably this one is quite corresponds to the French TV's reality in the composition called Hey, Real Executives, etc.

2. Clanghonktweet first sounds somewhere in the vein of Kansas. Heavy guitar riffs together with the wonderful passages of violin create, maybe, in some ways, familiar structures, but the following development of this piece just shows the absolutely different playing of all the musicians all over the track. Cello supported by piano and synthesizer arrangements sounds gently and slowly, as well as the overall tempo of this piece is also slow. After a bit eclectic, but very varied mind-blowing drumming the main theme is back to a key of the Hard-Rockish Art Rock with the rich interplays between electric guitar and the same cello.

3. The Family That Oonts Together, Groonts Together begins with exceptionally original playings by guitar, synthesizer, and sax, each of those constantly plays only his own theme. Drumming is very technical and unusual, into the accompaniment of those sound varied improvisations of sax, electric and bass guitar, and synthesizers. The themes changes each other kaleidoscopically, and after the highly heavy structures follows a unique mix consisted of the elements of Classic (Symphonic) Art Rock and openly Jazz Fusion improvisations (created mostly by the wind instruments). Sax often play a prominent role in this track, but nearer to the end it quite unexpectledly first was changed by the vibraphone improvistaions and - a bit later - by the interplays between the same vibraphone, electric and bass guitar into the accompaniment of fantastically vituostic drumming.

4. I'm Whinning for that Funky Baby of Mine - in the begiining looks just like a set of improvisations from the varied instruments, which are in the band's equipment. On the fields of free, as if absolutely separate drumming, truly avantgarde sound the jazzy sax, trombone, bass and electric guitar with its quite eclectic solos. There are no some special changes until the end of this first on this album quite accessible composition with a very few ideas.

5. Empate. A stylistical key in the beginning remains the same with the set of a bit boring solos by sax and electric guitar, though the work of rhythm-section sounds a little better. The excellent changes of the themes, moods and tempos begin somewhere in the middle of this piece. There are lots of original virtuostic guitar solos and quite effective dynamic work of rhythm-section. A bit later a ubiquitous here sax become the prominent instrument, although the next part of this piece sounds heavy and exceptionally originally, with the outstanding electric guitar riffs and solos, fantastically wonderful lines from the bass, which sounds together with a nice synthesizer and full of varied breaks and solos from the powerful drums.

6. Friends in Hinch Places begins with the noises, human voices and some "industrial" effects. Someone continues to tell some "stories" during the all 8 minutes of this composition, and apart from it, all I hear is just the quite monotonous drumming. The same pseudo-musical "story" continues awfully highly long period. As if the endless, openly empty "noisy" music together with the boring pseudo-narrations sound until the end of this another one on this album absolutely foolish composition. And such songs sound after the composition, which were composed with lots of the really great innovative themes, arrangements and improvisations.

7. Slowly I Turn, Step by Step, Inch by Inch is a little more interesting and adventurous composition than the previous one (as well as I'm Whinning of that Funky Baby of Mine). However, there are also lots of useless solos (mostly played by sax) and monotonous drumming sound on this one too - often just for nothing. The theme become more structured with slow drumming, fime bass lines and soft playing by synthesizer. The next move is also highly slow in tempo with some nice interplays by piano and heavy, led by the powerful guitar, riffing. Structurally Slowly I Turn is not as complex as the majority French TV's compositions in general. On the whole, Slowly I Turm mostly reminds me of the early early Soft Machine with no good compositional ideas. Just after the 5 minutes of total playing, this composition become compared to the true French TV. Constant changes of varied themes (heavy and soft), excellent simultaneous playing by the incredibly sounding electric guitar and very effective work by rhythm-section very unexpectedly changes by the wonderful heavy guitar arrangements t he musical moods, and nearer to the end non-interesting rhythmical "jokes" - with the guitar, bass and drums complete the album.

Summary. I would say that this album by French TV is not as smooth as, for example, their 4th work, and of course, especially 6th ("The Violence by Amateur", 1999). The compositions number 4 and 6 are absolutely weak and empty, written without any inspiration. Some critics describe their music as a mix of improvisational structures of Soft Machine, more smooth arrangements in the vein (?!) of Caravan, and the elements of such unusual style as RIO (Rock In Opposition). I stll cannot understand, what for these critics are always trying to compare even exceptionally original band to some "dinosaurs" from the past. Absurd... The most brief decription of the stylistics of French TV is "they play typical Canterbury music". Another one absurd... The manifestttation of Progressive Rock that's called "Canterbury" (it is well-known!) got its "name" just thanks to the UK's province, in which the majority of "Canterbury" bands has been formed. There are no other parallels between these musically, structurally and stylictically so different performers. For example, what are the real comparison between such "Canterbury" bands as the same Soft Machine and Caravan (though, in this category easy can be found also Gong, Camel, Hatfield & North, National Health, Khan, Hughscore and the others)? Soft Machine from the beginning of their original career and until 1976 played sophisticated improvisational Jazz Fusion with the first elements of the future most original Progressive Rock called RIO. Whereas Caravan played quite accessible mix of Jazz Fusion and Classic Art Roch, with the absolute domination of the latter style. Also, there couldn't be found any truly comparisons between such exceptionally different bands like Camel - typical Classic Symphonic Art Rock, Gong - the psychedelic Art Rock with just some (in their best period circa "You") jazzy improvisations, mostly created by the saxophone player Dider Malherbe, and, for example, Hatfield & North - one of the real pioneers of RIO style? And, after all, the reserve of the words in the arsenals of many critics is so little that they simply cannot more or less correctly describe one of a lot new bands of Progressive Rock. So, the majority of the Progressive Rock critics absolutely cannot find some new terms to describe such unique bands like the same French TV, without any doubts calling their style not as differently as... yeah, Canterbury! Though, these unique American guys, maybe, even haven't heard of such place in the UK that's called Canterbury!). I think, it is quite enough to discuss on this theme. content

VM. December 26, 1999


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