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Album Review

Emerging somewhere out of the non-glam loud rock zone of early nineties LA, Carnival Art first came general attention via its full debut Thrumdrone, helped by a signing to the noted Beggars Banquet label. The four-piece, led by singer/guitarist Michael P. Tak (who would later become Michael Petak for his solo career), mixed sometimes rude humor and a healthy streak of misanthropy to its semi-punk, semi-art, semi-indie dabblings. More straightforwardly power-poppy and funny and much less inclined towards epic stomp than fellow city dwellers Jane's Addiction and Tool, Carnival Art on Thrumdrone lurk somewhere, conceptually speaking, close to those acts while not quite being as distinct as either. Still, there's a few goodies to be had here or there, while the album as a whole benefits from the group's fine coproduction with engineer Tracy Chisholm. Musically the quartet isn't per se fantastic, but the players all can do reasonably thrashy stuff while also serving up backing harmonies as needed. Tak's high, somewhat twangy warblings sometimes call the Pixies' Black Francis to mind, if not quite as totally crazed, while his writing is at times sharply amusing, at times general nonsense. "Drop Dead" would stand on its own without the music, a total trashing of one Mr. Garcia and his psychedelic holdouts from San Francisco — thus lines like, "Skeleton saints on a/Terminal tour with/Body paints and the same songs/As before." Other winners include the quick rip of "Hammer and Nails," involving an unexpected conversation with God and the consequences, and "Sticky Green," a quick bit of mock-cornpone ripping then President George Bush a new one. While it's not the most obscure choice of cover, a version of Syd Barrett's "Octopus" indulges in some fun production wiggery and a crunching run through of the track itself.


Formed: 1990 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s

The slightly bent guitar rock of L.A.'s Carnival Art took its lessons from the demented Pixies. Consisting of Michael P. Tak (vocals, guitar), Ed (guitar, vocals), Brian Bell (bass, vocals), and Keith Fallis (drums), Carnival Art released their debut LP, Thrumdrone, in 1991. Signed to Beggars Banquet, Carnival Art weren't heavy metal enough to jump on the grunge bandwagon in the early ‘90s, and they were too weird to for pop audiences; caught in limbo, the band recorded two albums of off-kilter alternative...
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Thrumdrone, Carnival Art
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