Carnival Art was a vessel for more important alternative acts of the 1990s
Formed in Los Angeles in 1989, Carnival Art carved a small niche into the early 1990s alternative rock story with their uncompromised music that blurred the lines of making fun of Sunset Strip rock to brazen punk, as snarky as the 1990s made both out to be. By 1991, they were picked up by Beggars Banquet to spend a short amount of time on the label before falling apart around 1994 with a last gasp being a song for an Alice Cooper tribute album.
What is of note is that Ed Dobrydnio left Jane’s Addiction to be a part of Carnival Art. Dobrydnio started out on bass. But when Shane Paul Rhody left the band, Dobrydnio changed over to guitars and Brian Bell—he quickly joined Weezer after the band broke up—got his start as bassist for this band. Drummer Keith Fallis transferred to Big Drill Car.
Released thirty years ago, Thrumdrone came out of the gate at full steam. When the band dives into “Backyard King” this is this degree of perversity in how they treat time signatures that it’s almost delightful in the way an Amphetamine Reptile Records band is enjoyable. Michael Petak’s voice sounds like he is trying to vocally interpret an R. Crumb comic book.
“Octopus” takes form the school of The Pixies with the loud / quiet / loud ethics only to turn into some kind of cow punk fiasco on “Sticky Green.” What is more impressive is “Hammer And Nails” that pairs driving speed rhythms with a more haphazard punk mantra.
What remains a head scratcher is pulling the song “Mr. Blue Veins” and converting it into a single with an accompanying music video. The song was crucified by Beavis and Butt-head.
The band followed up with the less enticing Welcome to Vas Llegas. It churned out the abrasive “Suckerpunch” but lacked the success to keep them on Beggar’s Banquet, a move that led to their demise. What is left is a group who straddled the line between Soup Dragons and Ween that sounded nothing like Los Angeles.