Album Review: Prince Daddy & The Hyena – ‘Cosmic Thrill Seekers’

Posted: by The Editor

Prince Daddy & the Hyena operate like a Kansas tornado, or a black hole. Their gravitational force pulls in the entire DIY rock community, and draws its focus whenever they announce something new. The release of Cosmic Thrill Seekers has magnified that force and allowed their audience to not only expand, but focus on a singularly important issue of mental wellness in an astonishingly nuanced collection of songs. The band has matured thematically, improved their audio quality by strides, and has definitely been hanging out with Oso Oso—because those melodies are beautiful and familiar. 

Let’s start with one of the most obvious musical qualities of the record: the transitions. The narrative shifts between acts begin at the end of each previous one, where the new persona takes over. The instrumentation is especially diverse in these moments. There are sometimes subtle, but more often dramatic, style shifts that play to the band’s unique strengths. Prince Daddy has always been an eccentric project, and the erratic nature of their genre blending is the perfect vehicle for the different tenors of chaos that manifest in these differing personas. The album addresses heavy personal topics, but manages to incorporate the incredulity of their signature style into the music.

Act I is an emotionally driven perspective, motivated by potential relationships and connections. As the Passenger, the journey is experienced passively; they, like us, are just along for the cosmic ride. The longing for personal connection in “Lauren (Track 2)” is the first taste, but through all of “Fuckin’ A,” we’re shown the emotion and near-dependence on someone else that characterizes the Heart persona. There’s a distinct moment in “Dialogue” that offers some hopeful confidence, which rarely resurfaces throughout the album: “I won’t be the big tornado that takes me from my family / We’ll ride this out.” 

In “Cosmic Thrill Seeking Forever,” we’re introduced to our first shift in perspective between the Heart and the Brain. The Brain, anxious, self-deprecating, and neurotic, takes control because the Heart has been dangerously living in the future (“It’s not safe to think about forever”). Vocalist Kory Gregory distinguishes the conversation between the two personas with an impressive variance in vocal range, utilizing the falsetto as the voice of the more logical Brain. Then, of course, there’s the shredding ballad solo at the end that fades effortlessly into a slide guitar section, which is symbolic of the entire record’s fluidity.

In Act II, the Driver is now steering the ship, and unlike the Passenger, they’re actively affecting the body. Unfortunately, the Brain is also actively avoiding the solution, and focusing entirely on the problem of depressive episodes. The instrumentation gets heavier and increasingly composed, and the melodies are like early 2010’s pop-punk echoes, refreshed by Gregory’s naturally aggressive vocals. The entire act is a plummet into overthinking, and paranoia develops more and more as it goes on, causing fears of keeping up with the future, and friends. Those friends and connections the Heart coveted in Act I are now sources of chaos and stress; “They swear they’re shootin’ shit, but I know they’re talking it.”  

The anxious, inward recession delves deep in the second Act, emulated by both the lyrics, and the progression of the music. The Brain is straightforward, with lines like “Nothing in my brain would impress you,” that are hard to misinterpret. There are more math-rock style guitar parts and faster tempos throughout, and the key change from “Breather” into “Ursula Merger” is dynamite, and one of my favorite moments of the album. 

With the end of “Ursula Merger,” we have the Driver surrendering to the cosmic fate of futility, and becoming a Random Passerby in their own life; “Maybe it’s time the planets decide.” The transition from the Brain to the Roar is mirrored incredibly well by the explosive horn section raging behind the ominous line (possibly directed at the last people who care about them), “You’re making this way too easy.”

With this begins the final chapter of the saga, the Roar, which Gregory described in an interview with Kerrang! as “unhealthily reacting to an unhealthy state.” Out of control and open to everything, the Random Passerby watches themselves roar off the pent-up emotion from the Heart and the anxiety from the Brain. This is doing whatever presents itself and ignoring the consequences. This is the climax of the cosmic thrill seeking journey, attributed with giving in to inhibitions and impulses, convinced that this is the best path: “Six months to the day, you were nothing but a loser there anyway.”

As Act III progresses by running on autopilot, the Random Passerby starts gravitating back to Earth, and the cosmic journey begins to reach its conclusion. The Roar seems like it might be calmed down by the same connections that were present for the Heart, circling back to the beginning of it all: “When the night rolls through and you need me too, you already know I could never say no / This is the wrong time for something right to happen.”

“The Wacky Misadventures of the Passenger” is the cycle back into Act I, where the Heart reminds the Passerby why they care about connecting with other people, and how important it is to maintain those relationships, best observed in the simple yet relatable line, “It’s late and cold, and I miss my mom.” The end of the song, and similarly the end of the cosmic journey, leaves a bit of that hopeful sentiment heard from the Heart. When it all comes crashing back, it’s important to understand that “No matter where you go, even if they don’t show, you’re never really alone.” Until the whole cycle begins again, and you just have to hope you learn something each time.

For a band that popularized songs about working at Panera, and having more feedback in a recording than most bands’ live sets, the attention to detail and level of meta-narrative in Cosmic Thrill Seekers is one of the most drastic and impressive developments I’ve ever seen in a musical group. Gregory’s devotion to the album is obvious to any listener, and the variation of style and instrumentation shows just how much time and care went into making it. Prince Daddy & the Hyena, a band that prudent parents of 2019 would probably mock, is poised to be as influential to burgeoning modern musicians as Queen, a band those same parents probably did drugs too—in 1975.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great Phenomenal

Luciano Ferrara | @LucianoRFerrara

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