Great Cynics

Great Cynics “I Feel Weird”
LP/CD (Specialist Subject Records)
Review by Rich Cocksedge

I’ll hold my hands up and admit that when I first saw Great Cynics (or just Cynics as they were then), I was relatively nonplussed.  Nothing was sticking with me and I didn’t really get into the first album.  However, life delivered me an epiphany and I know exactly when and where it was: Friday 21st December at the now defunct White Rabbit in Plymouth, England.

The occasion was essentially a pre-Christmas gig with local punk gods Crazy Arm headlining.  On the bill that night were Great Cynics and I have no real idea what caused it (copious amounts of alcohol maybe?) but the band’s set hit home and knocked me for six with a performance that caused me to reappraise all previous thoughts on them.

I Feel Weird, the band’s third album, finds the trio hitting heights previously unscaled with a collection of songs that refuse to lose their appeal regardless of how many times one plays the eleven tracks.  Not only that, but if one were looking for a handful of songs that could be considered as potential hit singles (if punk rock was into such commercial nonsense) then there are enough contenders to keep people happy.  However, Great Cynics are not really punk anyway – they trade in big melodies which caress and put smiles on faces, riffs that once inside your head refuse to leave and a guitar sound that has just the right amount of mild abrasiveness to stop the whole thing becoming too easy on the ear.

In Giles Bidder and Iona Cairns, Great Cynics have two vocalists who complement each other well when working together but are equally adept at delivering a song with much aplomb and panache whilst flying solo.  Bidder’s vocals are highly distinctive and fit well with the tales being told, although even the saddest moments are bathed in light thanks to his tone.  Cairns has a wonderfully tuneful voice that reminds me of Lande Hekt of Muncie Girls, and that’s a huge compliment from me, but she also has the ability to add a bit of edge to her vocals too which I really like.

As noted, there really are some quality songs on I Feel Weird and this is evident as soon as the opener “Want You Around (Chunky)” crashes in to provide a highly enjoyable and upbeat beginning. It’s got a brash yet welcoming quality that is immediately infectious, aided by some keyboards which add some depth to the track.  It’s quickly followed by “I Went Swimming” which continues in the same vein, causing blood to bump, heads to nod and more grins to spread across faces.  “North Street” is the first track on which Cairns takes the lead vocal and it’s another song full of ebullience and bounce – one more hit nestling sweetly amongst the grooves and one which displays that aforementioned edge that her voice is capable of.

Skip forward a few tracks to “Everyone’s A Little Bit Weird” and you get a track that celebrates the differences that we all have, be they open and obvious or those which we choose to hideaway. Okay, it might not be that far reaching but it’s what the song makes me feel.  It also has a party feel to it which adds to the whole sense of celebration emanating from the song and I could see this being a live favourite with audience members gleefully joining in as one.

“Lost In You” is another highpoint with its boisterous opening and a chorus that begs to be sung at the top of your voice: okay, probably best doing this in the safety of your own house as doing so on bus might mark one out as a little bit weird!  I must also mention “Tread Lightly” which begins with the line ‘Tread lightly, speak dearly’ which I am assuming is in some way a nod to the track of that name by Lightyear, my favourite ska-punk band to come out of the UK.  Not only that, but it too is a track worthy of note for no better reason than it’s a great sounding song.

The album closes with the jaunty and breezy “By The Sea” and although it sounds different to the other ten tracks it’s just seems to be the right kind of ending for I Feel Weird, with its relaxed and chilled qualities.

On all fronts Great Cynics are on the up and this record will undoubtedly garner more plaudits than just this one review, especially as it’s one of the best albums of the year so far.