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Misguided Promise: Carnival Season Complete (1984-89)

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Album Review

Being best known as Alabama's answer to the Replacements is about as dubious as distinctions get to the average rock fan, which is probably why Birmingham-based Carnival Season never gained much of a reputation outside their home state (though their drab name didn't help). But the ‘Mats own Bob Stinson was a fan of Carnival Season, and listening to their body of recorded work, it's not hard to see why. Misguided Promise: Carnival Season Complete 1984-89 includes their sole full-length album, 1988's Waiting for No One, as well as two three-song EPs from 1985 and 1986, a pair of unreleased 1985 demos, and two live songs from 1988 hometown gig. While the 11 tracks from Waiting for No One are the best stuff here (the production by guitar-centric pop genius Tommy Keene brought out the best in their songs), this is uniformly potent rock & roll; like the Replacements, Carnival Season clearly loved their rock big, loud, and raunchy, but their belief in hard rock formalism had more in common with the likes of the Pontiac Brothers, and the melodies revealed a strong pop sensibility, as if the Windbreakers or Let's Active had bought Les Pauls and Marshall stacks and cranked them up to ten. Unlike a lot of alternative acts with a taste for hard rock, Carnival Season had the chops to pull it off, and guitarist Tim Boykin, bassist Brad Quinn, and drummer Mark Reynolds (and the various second guitarists who drifted in and out of the band) sounded impressively tight and non-ironic; according to the liner notes, the group pulled off Waiting for No One's climactic rave-up "Potential Crime" in a single take, an impressive feat given the song's length, speed, and complexity. It was around the time that Carnival Season broke up that the grunge movement took hold, which might have provided a more comfortable context for this music, but their taut craft and sincere belief in rock & roll would have always set them apart from most of the flannel-clad masses; Misguided Promise doesn't quite unearth a lost masterpiece, but it documents a band who deserved a lot more recognition than they received in their day, and the strength of this music is still impressive all these years later.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s

Carnival Season were a band in the wrong place at the wrong time; if they'd been based in Seattle in 1988 or Minneapolis in 1983, they would have fit right in with their peers, but in Birmingham, AL in 1985, their mixture of hard rock guitar, thoughtful but streetwise lyrics, and tunes that were aggressive and tuneful at once made them an anomaly, and in a community where alternative rock had trouble gaining a foothold, they never gained the larger audience their music deserved. Originally named...
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Misguided Promise: Carnival Season Complete (1984-89), Carnival Season
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