Prince Daddy and The Hyena - Cosmic Thrill Seekers (Cover Artwork)

Prince Daddy and The Hyena

Cosmic Thrill Seekers (2019)

Counter-Intuitive Records

A concept album is always an ambitious feat, but that’s doubly so when it comes to punk. A genre that thrives off of simplicity and brevity is hard to mold into something complicated and long-form. Luckily, Prince Daddy & The Hyena have taken cues from the most successful examples on Cosmic Thrill Seekers.

The upstate NY band’s sophomore LP lives by the rule of thirds. Musically, it sounds like a puree of The Monitor, The Black Parade, and WORRY. Structurally, it’s divided into three acts, all of which have distinct emotional tones. Lyrically, it’s a triple threat; it’s a dive into the mental anguish of frontman Kory Gregory, it’s a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, and it’s a space opera that (likely intentionally) acts as a spiritual successor to Weezer’s long-unreleased Songs from The Black Hole. Safe to say, there’s some hefty ambition present on this LP. Luckily, the band has the songwriting chops to live up to this.

The acoustic strumming and piano that compromise most of opening track “I Lost My Life” are decidedly bleak, and are complimented by Gregory’s scratchy retelling of an acid trip that would have an extensively miserable aftermath. The song gradually builds up static and reverb beneath it, until finally the full band explodes into the mix for an epic finale. The noise eventually shifts itself into the opening riff of “Lauren (Track 2),” which is much more indicative of the rest of the album. With an insatiably catchy hook and lyrics like “periodically / your friends will all leave / they’ve got their big dreams / I get it but / it fuckin’ sucks,” it’s a near-perfect emo-pop song.

Although the band stays true to the realms of emo- and power-pop, they tackle them in just about every way possible. “Cosmic Thrill-Seeking Forever” is blissfully sweet, complete with a glockenspiel, Beach Boys-esque woos, and a falsetto that harkens back to Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle in its brittle, slightly warped delivery. “The Prototype of the Ultimate Lifeform” echoes newer Joyce Manor or even Warning-era Green Day. “Dream Nails” acts like an Irish drinking interlude, which segues perfectly into “C’mon and Smoke Me Up,” easily the catchiest pop punk song of the year so far.

The album’s production, however, is the glue that takes these influences and crafts them into a cohesive experience. The band has achieved a perfect balance between gritty and glittery. For every dirty, space rock freak-out of a guitar solo at one point, there’s a shower of ditzy synths, horns, or backing vocals in another. In particular, Kississippi’s Zoe Reynolds employs her silky-sweet voice on a few songs, which offers a stark contrast to her fiancé Gregory’s prickly snarl.

That snarl may be the one thing that may find listeners giving up on Cosmic Thrill Seekers. Gregory’s voice is like if Jeff Rosenstock was snottier, and could hold even less notes. It’s not uncommon for folks to say they would be a fan if not for him. However, it’s honestly hard to imagine what Prince Daddy would sound like with anyone else. That seems doubly true given how intensely personal and agonizing the lyrics are this time around.

If you’ve felt like emo has become pretty stagnant in recent times, Prince Daddy will likely be a breath of fresh air. Every song on Cosmic Thrill Seekers feels like it’s been painstakingly crafted down to the last note. They all have different quirks and aesthetics, yet the whole project feels surprisingly cohesive. It’s hard to imagine any other record in the genre this year coming close to this.