Dance Music For Contortionists

The Case Against Art (Pretentious Dinosaur)

French TV

By David Lilly

You're bound to wonder where the cartoons are. This disc starts with something that sounds like the theme from "The Westinghouse Talent Hour," or some fictional TV or radio variety show. After that late-1950's type of intro, there are almost nine minutes of alternately frantic, calm, dramatic, silly and boisterous conversation and play between bass, keyboards, wind instruments, drums, guitar, violin and banjo. That's life for "That Thing on the Wall," the first song of the seventh official full-length CD by the famously obscure band, French TV.

Based in Louisville (where they're all but unknown), revered worldwide by the progressive rock community, and led by Mike Sary, French TV makes music like ... well, imagine the Lounge Lizards and the late Frank Zappa collaborating on the soundtrack for "Pee Wee's Playhouse," especially for the Claymation inside the refrigerator. Or imagine what Pink Floyd might've sounded like if Syd Barrett had remained as their chief songwriter.

The five adventurous songs that live life to the fullest on this CD add up to about 55 minutes of solid, if quirky entertainment.

On the way, we're treated to "Under the Big W," which has its very own set of personalities, like much of FTV's best work. A section near the end sounds like some kind of Beatles-inspired experiment, but a good chunk of the song comes across like a clever tip of the hat to the soundtrack of the film The Elephant Man. But hey, that's in my ears; you might hear something else.

Believe it or not, there is already material for the next French TV CD, information that "the faithful" will be glad to hear. The year 2002 is still young and we all hope for many great recordings from various artists throughout the next several months. However, The Case Against Art has my vote as one of the best CDs of the year, whether in or out of the "cult favorites" category. Mr. Sary, et al, can be found on the web at www.frenchtvonline.com.