The other day I was having one of those days when for no inexplicable reason I was feeling really down and miserable. I hate days like this. Then I was sent an email from Kay at Specialist Subject asking me to review one of my favourite bands, Great Cynics. I had already pre-ordered the album, titled POSI, a month or so earlier and all of their back catalogue is on constant rotation in our home. I had already heard POSI was an album about the struggles of life in London and trying to keep your head up despite all of the problems you might have in your life. If ever I needed to listen to a positive record then today was the day.
There had been a little bit of change in the Great Cynics camp before POSI was recorded, with long time bass player and occasional singer Iona Cairns stepping away from the band to be able to concentrate more time on her own band, Shit Present. This was a great shame as I think Iona with guitarist/vocalist Giles Bidder and drummer Bob Barrett had a wonderful dynamic, especially on stage together. I am also intrigued to see what the newest incarnation of Great Cynics is like though. This will have to wait until their album release shows in April. On POSI the bass playing was also done by Giles, a man of many talents.
POSI begins with the song Let Me Go Home. The track begins with an extended musical intro with a guitar sound that will immediately make you think "Great Cynics" even if you didn't know you were listening to a Great Cynics song. It's that wonderful and warm indie pop rock that the band have perfected over their previous three albums. Giles' vocals hit and it's like an old friend singing songs that I've been listening to for years. From the outset I'm hooked on POSI. When I first heard the start of Only Memories, the second track, I instantly thought Menzingers. The opening guitars really reminded me of the song Gates from the Pennsylvanian punks. Not to say that this is rip off of The Menzingers, far from it. Giles has one of the most recognisable vocals in the world of punk and as soon as he starts singing this song about remembering all the things you did when you were younger and trying to forget about the bad things. The ending of the song where the music dies down and you just get Giles on his own was a fantastic way to finish the track. It also leads brilliantly into the next song Blue Roll And Duct Tape. The opening guitar riffs have a lovely uplifting feel to them that just makes you want to dance. The opening lyrics of "Do You Wanna Give In To The Shit, Or Worse Get Used To It" give me a great idea of what the track is about. It's about getting on with life and making the best of it despite the rubbish that is thrown your way. After a brief breakdown, some fantastic gang vocals come in shouting "I Just Needed The World To Feel A Little Bit Bigger" along with some backing harmony "Bah, Bahs" that finish the song in a positive way.
The fourth track London, Happiness has an absolutely massive chorus that goes "IIIIIIIIIIIII Know That Happiness Is A Place In London." I'm imagining that getting a massive reaction at their album launch shows at Urban Bar, Whitechapel, in April. Quite clearly the song is about loving where you live despite all its pitfalls. Shabba Shabba is track that starts off quite slowly, before gradually building towards a big ending. Bob's drumming really stands out as he brilliantly lays down the foundations for the big finale. Shabba Shabba is about getting over a break up by blocking out your feelings and pushing the person you're breaking up with away despite them not wanting you to. Shaba Shabba leads seamlessly into the next song, Don't Buy The Sun. After a slow building beginning, the song explodes into life as Giles lets rip on The Sun newspaper. I don't remember ever hearing so much venom in Giles' voice as there is here and I have to say that I loved it. After the introduction, the track becomes a whirlwind of anger. There is a rawness to the sound of the song that only adds to the energy in it - giving you the feel of a live Great Cynics performance. Perhaps my favourite track so far. Easily Done is more of an up-tempo song that keeps POSI flowing along nicely. It seems as if a lot of thought as gone into the synchronicity of the album - it's these little things that make a good album great. Giles maintains a fast paced vocal throughout the song, stuffing it full of energy. The song is about realising that you're not perfect and that that is okay despite what other people might think.
Too Much feels like a classic Great Cynics track with its extremely anthmeic and catchy chorus. It starts out with a simple drum beat before Giles opens the song with my favourite lyrics of the entire album - "When I Wake Up In The Morning I Got Nothing To Do, Because We've Come Home From Tour And I Finished In School, So I Wrap My Legs Around My Duvet And Watch TV, On A Borrowed Netflix Account On A Computer Screen." This just painted a brilliant picture. Soon enough we get to the chorus of "Too Much, Too Much, Too Much, Too Much Is Never Enough." Another song that I can see getting a big reaction at a Great Cynics live set. The ninth track is titled Summer At Home. This is another incredibly uplifting song that really put a smile on my face. It's a track about going home and reacquainting yourself with your old friends and letting them know how much they mean to you. The chorus of "You Don't Think That You're Special, You Don't Think That You're Special, It's What Makes You Special" is another that will get a crowd singing at the top of their lungs whilst feeling empowered by Giles' words. The penultimate track on POSI is the excellent Butterfly Net. Butterfly Net is a piece of indie pop punk perfection. It's got everything I want in a song - it has great energy, smart and poignant lyrics, it's relatable and most importantly it's fun. You can sing along, have a dance and just smile away throughout the song. Lovely jubbly. Finally we have the track Things We Don't Need. It's a short track at only forty-nine seconds but it does the job. It's about getting over a break up and realising that the person the relationship made you become is not who you want to be. How many of us have been there? It's a fantastically positive way to end a record about trying to be positive.
The fact that Great Cynics are on their fourth album despite being a small DIY band is an incredible achievement in itself. This is down to a lot of hard work, sacrifice and most importantly a huge amount of talent. Great Cynics are one of those bands where it baffles me that they haven't made more of a break through into the mainstream music world. The talent is obviously there for anyone to see and since album number one, Don't Need Much, they've always felt like an accessible band to all fans of music - not just punk rock. Perhaps POSI will be their breakthrough album, it's certainly showing a band that are still at the top of their game.
Stream and download POSI here: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/posi
Like Great Cynics here: https://www.facebook.com/greatcynics/
This review was written by Colin Clark.