French TV – I Forgive You All My Unhappiness/Live at ProgDay 2009

“There is a grim dimension, beyond that which is known to most men. It is a dimension as small as dust and as timeless as a sequined bell-bottom. It is the middle ground between artifice and talent, between Doctor Who and Tolkien. I’m Mac Beaulieu, and you’ve just entered the Progrock Zone”

So declaims the mission statement on this, the reissued tenth French TV offering, originally issued last year, now coming at you with a tasty bonus disc recorded live at ProgDay 2009, and who am I to argue with such a concise nailed on statement of fact?!

Inhabiting a strange dimension somewhere between Zappa at his jazziest and on the outskirts of Canterbury while flirting with RIO and possibly mental trauma, the band have been going since 1983(!), and push out some fine complex ensemble playing. Quirkiness permeates their music, as you can guess from the track titles, along with Hawking-defying impossible time signatures and strange musical scales that make one’s feet subconsciously tap asymmetrically. If cats could dance methinks they would cut a rug to this groove.

Playful and wilful in equal measure, leader Mike Sary anchors things on his trusty bass guitar, as far as that is possible, with some unobtrusive yet no doubt difficult playing. The rest of the band are no mugs either, and with talent like this burrowing down so far underground even a Chilean mining rescue team would have problems locating them, it makes me despair of mainstream tastes. Or maybe I’m just weird?

Anyway on to the album. Seven Rusty Nails starts by plumbing a funky groove before shifting gear with swelling organ (no snickering at the back) and sax playing, setting the tone for the brainiac French TV experience. Just a casual glance at the track titles gives big clues as to what butters these guys’ bread. National Health or Frank Zappa would be proud to have come up with titles like ”Conversational Paradigms” or “With Grim Determination, Terrell Dons the Bow Tie”, such is the licence given to the makers of instrumental music. Listed as contributing vocals to the latter track, “young” Andrew Katsikas’ appearance is awaited with anticipation while we soft shoe shuffle through a minefield of dazzling complexity, including snatches of the Batman TV theme put through a wringer..ah, there it is I think…some subsequently synthesised toddler gurgling at around five minutes in? I could be completely wrong of course!

The live album, recorded in what looks like the idyllic setting of ProgDay 2009 in front of a crowd of tens, is the French TV live experience where things get stretched, tweaked and, nay flogged to death. How they remember all this weirdness when playing live is beyond me, or perhaps some of it is scored? Featuring tracks from this album and earlier smash hits, it makes me want to fly to Louisville, Kentucky now, as I can’t see how I’m ever going to see them in the UK*, but we live in hope. Keep up the good works, fellas!

Not for the faint hearted or for lovers of regressive musics (boy, I like that term, first coined on this site I do believe), but definitely for those of us who like something shall we say, a bit musically perverse. Floss your brain and get your noggin dancin’ along to this little beaut, it won’t be disappointed!

Go to the band’s Myspace or Last.fm site for streaming and more..and buy the thing here!

*Mike has asked me if I could put him in touch with any UK promoters who would pay “more than beer money”. If you are that person, or you know who they are, drop me a line in the Comments section, and I’ll forward any forthcoming helpfulness to Mike.

Tracklist:

CD1 – I Forgive You All My Unhappiness
1. Seven Rusty Nails (7:00)
2. Conversational Paradigms (7:33)
3. March of the Cookie Cutters (8:52)
4. You Got To Run It Out, Dawson! (9:15)
5. With Grim Determination, Terrell Dons the Bow Tie (6:41)
6. Mosquito Massacre (5:55)

CD2 – Live at ProgDay 2009
1. Scaface (8:39)
2. Seven Rusty Nails (7:02)
3. Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously (10:58)
4. Paranoiac (6:31)
5. March Of The Cookie Cutters (8:37)
6. You Got To Run It Out, Dawson! (9:40)
7. Hartford’s Coffin (8:03)
8. Conversational Paradigms (7:43)
9. Secret Life Of Walter Riddle (9:11)

Line up (CD1):

* Mike Sary – basses
* Jeff Gard – drums
* Steve Katsikas – keyboards (1-5), final sax solo (1)
* Shawn Persinger – guitars (1-3)
* Adam Huffer – sax (1, 2, 5)
* Warren Dale – sax, clarinet, melodica (3, 6)
* Hans Bodin – guitar synth (2)
* Roy Strattman – guitars (4)
* Joe Conroy – guitar (4)
* Chris Smith – guitar (6)
* Paolo Botta – keyboards (6)
* “Young” Andrew Katsikas – vocal (5)

Line up (CD2):

*Mike Sary – bass

*Jeff Gard – drums

*Steve Katsikas – keyboards, sax

*Shawn Persinger – guitars

* Warren Dale – keyboards, sax, clarinet, flute, melodica

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