3 out of 5
Label: Skin Graft
Produced by: Daryl Rabidoux
With one guitarist from Arab on Radar and one guitarist from Chinese Stars – and then Eric Paul (vox) and Craig Kureck (drums) from both bands – it’s no wonder that Doomsday Student most often sounds like a mix between the two groups. But it’s a good combo, nabbing the aggression of AoR and applying it to the more consistent momentum of Chinese Stars, Paul’s lyrics similarly balanced between the former group’s deviant themes and the latter’s often random feeling tomes to deliver legitimately followable songs that do right by the album name’s suggestion of hysteria, paranoia and odd obsessions filling the lyric sheet. Sometimes this equals something notably brash, like bristling opener ‘Disappearing’s “Let’s Fuck Away…” our problems proclamations, and sometimes Paul delivers a humorously nervy narrative like closer ‘Lifeboat Blues’: “Two woman (sic) tried to kick me out of the lifeboat / they believed my skull was too heavy.” While producer Daryl Rabidoux does right to push the very AoR wiggly guitar sounds to the background in favor of the other guitar and the propulsive drums, the album still comes across as a mash-up instead of an original invention. There’s never really a doubt as to where the members of this band came from, and although a couple tracks favor Radar’s more loosey-goosey song structure (‘Disappearing’ again), it more often follows the Stars setup of finding a groove and just hitting it for a couple minutes straight, which thus shares the problem most of the Stars’ output had of blending together after the midpoint of the album. But… within this super short blast of tracks there exist a couple of moments that abstract and then build upon the members’ previous works, producing songs that hit with a unique punch. ‘The Lean’ slows the beat down and ends up being a reliable slab of rock, only immediately identifiable as tied to Arab on Radar thanks to Paul’s familiar whine. Directly following this, and applying opposite tactics, ‘I Piss Sunshine’ – and then later on, ‘Hunting for a Headshrinker’ – just go for a non-stop pace, using recognizable AoR / Stars techniques, but feeling a bit more quirky or poppy than either of those groups.
So there’s still some room for the group to define itself. However, if you like a regular dose of the style that these guys have cultivated over the years, ‘A Walk Through Hysteria Park’ definitely fits the bill for now.