A few weeks ago, Jason Pettigrew wrote a really fun listicle for Alternative Press called “Ten Bands That Are Actually Terrifying.” Sitting comfortably among other worthies like Deathspell Omega and Einstürzende Neubauten were Arab on Radar, a ridiculously noisy Providence, RI group of the 1990s who helped open the door to the 21st Century’s No-Wave revival. Here’s Jason’s blurb:
Nothing particularly scary about this late-’90s noise-rock unit fronted by Eric Paul. That is, until they got onstage, plugged in and created a caterwauling scree that emanated the ugliest of vibes. While onstage, Paul threw himself into everything (bandmates, audience) while approximating the high-pitched squealing heard in animal-testing facilities. When this writer first saw them, the bad vibes spilled out into the street post-show, with plenty of fights, vandalism and muggings going down. Or was it just the neighborhood? (RIP, Speak In Tongues, Cleveland.)
As it happens, I was at the same show, and it wasn’t just the neighborhood, though the neighborhood certainly was a bit more wild-west back then (the venue is now a waxing studio—RIP Speak In Tongues, indeed). I’d known Arab on Radar only by name, and was utterly unprepared. I stood transfixed in front of the stage, genuinely frightened that I might come to physical harm either from the band or the rest of the audience, but unwilling to miss a single note—they DID play actual notes, I’m fairly sure. The band members’ faces were distorted with white-hot maniac rage, they wore grey uniforms that put me in mind of concentration camp janitors, and their music was beyond assaultive, it was downright punitive. The most lasting image in my mind of that show was of drummer Craig Kureck, his face twisted into a mask of murderous anger, just fucking ruthlessly smashing a cymbal which he held in a chokehold, as if he was shattering someone’s skull with a hammer.
I’d made a jaded bastard of myself by spending over a decade going to every show I could possibly see, and was always stunned when I found bands still capable of surprising and exciting me to that level. I fell in love and bought many records.
You don’t burn that hot and last forever, and after four LPs, namely Queen Hygiene II (there was no I), Rough Day at the Orifice, the absolute must-have Soak the Saddle, and their jaw-dropping swan song Yahweh or the Highway, AoR called it quits in 2002. Its members formed other bands, like The Chinese Stars (good) and Made in Mexico (meh). After a 2008 documentary Sunshine for Shady People re-ignited interest, the band made an abortive attempt a reformation in 2010. A year later, they tried again, replacing founding guitarist Jeff Schneider with The Chinese Stars’ Paul Vieira and changing their name to Doomsday Student. That lineup stuck, and they recorded A Jumper’s Handbook in 2011 and A Walk Through Hysteria Park in 2014. Their albums and gigs are squarely in the AoR ballpark—prompting some bafflement as to why they even changed the name—though absent the element of surprise, I no longer feared for my safety.
Performance photos: Becky DiGiglio
Doomsday Student’s new album, A Self-Help Tragedy, is due out this week. But before it drops, it’s Dangerous Minds’ pleasure to stream it for you today, in its entirety. The demented lyrics, erratic guitar spasms, and pulverizing drumming you’d have every right to expect are all there exactly where they belong. Enjoy.
BONUS! Here’s the video for Doomsday Student’s kinda seasonally timely “Angry Christmas.” NSFW due to animated nudity.