Great Cynics – ‘Posi’

By Matthew Wilson

It’s the worst of times, so let’s write an album about the best of times. ‘Posi,’ the fourth album by those affable southern punks Great Cynics, is an album split down the middle, told in two parts, treading a knife’s edge between seemingly forced positivity and a more deep seated, yet honest, bitterness.

Great Cynics had a line-up change while recording this album, losing bassist Ioana Cairns and the creative input she brings. Whilst the band seem to have taken this in their stride, it’s affected the writing process in some way. There’s been a seemingly keen interest to shift focus from vocalist/guitarist Giles Bidder’s inner trauma and anxieties, instead taking wistful aim at life in London town, trying to give it a ‘positive’ spin musically.

The tension between this new musical direction and Bidder’s natural gravitation to more downbeat subject matters hang over the first half of the album and it doesn’t land well. ‘Let Me Go Home’ is a suitably swaggy opener and does its job, but lead single ‘Only In Memories’ falls a bit flat, its main riff having more than a passing similarity to ‘Gates’ by The Menzingers. The saccharine ‘Happiness, London,’ with lines like “this is the most expensive place on earth, but I just wanna stay” seems a bit rich to all of those leaking inhabitants of the capital. ‘Posi’ starts off trying very hard to be something it is not.

Luckily, after this, the album picks up pace with the excellent ‘Shabba Shabba’, full of tender moments of small human intimacies “like standing outside Sainsbury’s in the rain […] I love it in your car when it’s freezing outside” and Bidder’s simple, honest admission that “I’m not easy” hitting home like an emotional haymaker. It’s these little human realisations that give ‘Posi’ its character, like album linchpin ‘Summer At Home’s tender and self-affirming climax of “you don’t think that you’re special, it’s what makes you special.” 

It’s where things feel like they’re falling apart that Great Cynics sound their most natural. The intense punk rock fury of ‘Don’t Buy The Sun’ becomes a blend of distortion and Britpop, the reckless sub one-minute closer ‘Things We Don’t Need’ giving a middle finger to misery with the cry of “I never wanna be that way again!”. If there’s a best representation of ‘Posi’ it’s probably ‘Blue Roll and Duct Tape’, with its slick, sunny guitar riffs and upbeat, disposable chorus of “it’s not so bad, they say!” Juxtaposed against the lyrical trauma of trying to clean up a breaking down relationship, it sums up an album trying to pull itself apart at the seams.

Great Cynics deserve respect in their intention to make a positive album, but it’s on the songs where they lose their self-imposed restraint that they find their soul. So, whilst their intent may not have led to the optimistic tour-de-force they were after, the tensions in this album make it all the more endearing. As Bidder sings on ‘Blue Roll and Duct Tape’, there’s no harm in wanting “the world to feel a little bit bigger”. The world kind of sucks right now; at least Great Cynics are trying to make it a little better.

MATTHEW WILSON

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