Of the many scenes that the UK has, the current wave of indie-punk is among the easiest to decide whether you’re onboard with or not. And with no disrespect, given that the most prominent constants are jaunty guitar lines and an approachable if slightly twee delivery, it’s because a lot of the acts under that banner sound very alike. With Great Cynics on the other hand, they were arguably among the original popularisers of the sound, with their debut album Don’t Need Much released in 2011, with very few rest stops taken since. And given the current climate of their distinct sound, that’s the best option, covering more ground and upping their game to keep a hold of that high standing.
As a result, Posi is not exactly an important album, but more of a reaffirmation that Great Cynics can still roll with the best of them. And thankfully, this album is definitely proof of that, taking the typical indie-punk tropes and roughing them up a bit for a more satisfying listen. To say there’s anything close to ferocity or an exposed edge would be a gross exaggeration, but Great Cynics wear their humanity and down-to-earth nature prominently on their sleeves, particularly on the studio outtakes stuck on the end of tracks like Easily Done or the burp that sneaks its way into Happiness, London.
It’s this humanity that’s Great Cynics’ best asset on Posi. There’s no immediately noticeable changes with this – there’s still the politeness and slight awkwardness that’s the norm in indie-punk – but as its title suggests, their sunnier outlook gives this album a lightness that’s hard to resist. Said positivity forms the basis of Great Cynics’ appeal here, whether it comes in the love for their hometown on Happiness, London, the sort of rare self-esteem booster that actually feels genuine rather than mawkish on Summer At Home‘s refrain of “You don’t think that you’re special / It’s what makes you special”, or just rallying against those who want to spoil those good times by spreading hate on Don’t Buy The Sun. It’s hardly revelatory, but it’s a refreshing change of pace compared to how dour a lot of modern music, particularly punk, can seem.
It’s just a shame that the same can’t be said for the music itself. While the band may break out of traditional genre trappings occasionally, like the spindly guitar line of Let Me Go Home or the sun-dappled, staccato riff of Blue Roll And Duct Tape, for the most part this is meat and potatoes indie-punk, typically cheerful and lightweight with only the tiniest twinge of a bite. And the fact that that’s the case means that some of Posi‘s longevity established in its lyrics is undercut here. It feels as though, as a whole package, there isn’t a great deal that’s immediately identifiable, and while Giles Bidder goes some way to rectifying that with his tendency for vocals that can be a bit harsher like on Don’t Buy The Sun or Easily Done, it only temporarily disables the problem rather than outright fixing it.
But then again, Posi doesn’t feel like an album that goes hand in hand with longevity, but rather one whose easy-going, ephemeral demeanour is where most of its charm comes from. Sadly that does mean that Posi mightn’t last the rest of the year, but it also feels as though Great Cynics know this. After all, the fact that this album is less than half an hour long and is as bright and breezy as it is suggests that it’s here for a good time, not a long time. And in those circumstances, Great Cynics really do succeed, as Posi has a lot going for it in terms of appeal. It mightn’t be that different from indie-punk’s typical fare, but at its core, there’s a touch to this album that just helps to elevate it above the competition.
For fans of: Muncie Girls, Happy Accidents, Cheap Girls
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Posi’ by Great Cynics is released on 24th March on Specialist Subject Records.