When pop punk and emo reached their commercial peaks in the mid 00’s, many believed the subgenres had lost their edges. Artists like Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance were excommunicated by their peers for (allegedly) exploiting the cultures they came from. Under the surface though, young people were finding these major success stories to be entryways to a greater world. This would lead many of them to start their own bands, throw their own shows, and put out their own records.
It may be safe to assume that the members of Prince Daddy & The Hyena were some of those young people. The Albany quartet’s new album Cosmic Thrill Seekers is shamelessly informed by American Idiot and The Black Parade, yet has more in common with records by Jeff Rosenstock and Pup. Reportedly, it was produced to sound like “the soundtrack to a Disney film played by a punk rock band” and thematically draws heavily from the Wizard of Oz. The record more or less chronicles the cyclical aftermath of an acid trip had by vocalist/guitarist Kory Gregory and is separated into three different “acts”: the heart, the brain, and the roar (the latter defined by Gregory as a destructive sense of “courage”). What resulted from this experience is possibly the most innovative punk record to come out this year.
CTS itself is cyclical like the time in Gregory’s life which it portrays. The last track, “Wacky Misadventures of the Passenger” loops right back into the album’s opener, “I Lost My Life.” The former is a perfect closer, beginning as an uptempo, sincere apology before diverting to a slow, sludgy sigh of exhaustion. The latter is a campfire-like acoustic song that explodes within minutes to maximum volume and a guitar solo, only to come back down and gently guide the listener into the second track. It would not be totally out of place next to “An Introduction to the Album” off of The Hotelier’s Home, Like No Place Is There.
Dynamics like these are key to the record’s accessibility to diverse ears. Flawlessly sequenced from front to back, Prince Daddy managed to merge a variety of stylistic influences on this record. Those familiar with the band’s previous work will know them as a primary player in the Weezer-punk explosion that emerged in the DIY scene over the last several years. However, Pinkerton worship can no longer be the signifier for how they are defined. Of course, CTS doesn’t shirk that influence - “Trying Times,” “Cosmic Thrill Seekers Forever,” and the album’s first single “Lauren” work well to show you that. But the newer album delves much deeper into the scene the band is a part. Elements of emo, pop punk, post hardcore, indie rock, and Rosenstock-core(?) have been pieced together throughout CTS in a way that make it one of a kind and a potential game changer for DIY music.
In addition to their knack for organic genre bending, Gregory has the ability to swim in and out of descriptive language and metaphors with casual speak. Take for instance, the lyrics for “Klonopin.”
Nights I'm awake
Make my days feel like a gamble
Wander with me
And we'll see what we can handle
I know that I'm probably expected back soon
But I'm really, really feeling this private bathroom
It gives me all the reason I need
And the tiles keep begging me
“Please don’t leave”
This sort of earnestness runs alongside nostalgic references throughout CTS. “Nick@nite bullshit,” faking sick in race car beds, and several callbacks to hating gym class are combined with the dreadful realization that Gregory is unable to relive those carefree times of his life. Perhaps this same idea is why Prince Daddy sounds like an updated version of everything a mid-20’s punk grew up listening to - still full of angst, but putting forth a desire to figure life out.
There’s not enough room here to talk about why every song on CTS is good or deserves its spot on the record. Frankly, a lot of mediocre records get 5/5 star reviews on independent websites, but this album actually deserves it. It’s over-the-top catchy but never too predictable; bursting with youthful energy but introspectively mature; huge as fuck but rawly relatable. And by the time you’re done with it, you won’t even notice that it’s been over 40 minutes, which is an extra lap in punk time. But again - the band makes it work.
To naysayer critics that make a career of living in the past, Prince Daddy & The Hyena is proof that there will always be something interesting going on within the world of punk. The band seems to have put everything they have into Cosmic Thrill Seekers and it paid off. If you’re looking for that record that reminds you why you got into this music in the first place but doesn’t sound too much like a snotty teenager’s diary, then give this one a shot.
10.0 / 10
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