Great Cynics - Like I Belong | Album Review | By Volume

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Great Cynics

Like I Belong

An organic and spirited punk record which breaks the bank on earnest simplicity.

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Author: on May 6, 2013
Bomber Music/Lemon Days
April 8, 2013

For all the declared reckless abandon in mission statements of the punk movement, scene, culture and sound, it feels at times more pre-occupied with its ‘self’ than the pop music it frequently rails against. That’s not to say that an awareness of context and identity will kill you every time; sometimes the rules can be fun to read from an ironic perspective, and maybe even to shred in knowing protest. But it’s rare to find a punk band that actually embodies that more free spirit that many claim as their own. We have followers, leaders, and conscious anomalies, but it feels like we’re always playing to some grander narrative in the end.

So, on some levels, it’s refreshing when a band like London’s Great Cynics don’t go to painful lengths to individualise the lesser aspects of their sound. What catches me by surprise about Like I Belong is not some arbitrary quirk or single trait; by the same token, neither is it some sophisticated observation. Rather, what I’m pulled inside by is the effortless fluidity of these very simple punk rock songs, which – though personal and heartfelt – don’t blaze with any intense light, and which are comfortable without showmanship, just happy to allow the chords to carry themselves.

It’s how Great Cynics are perfectly willing to ebb and flow, and to occupy the middle ground of a punk band that’s neither acoustic nor aggressive, whose words are neither trapped inside claustrophobic lexis cages nor over-indulgent, flowery prose. There are shots of a less pretentious, more British Say Anything, which are snapped most clearly in the album’s early moments, but those impressions subside in favour of something more direct but just as organic. If I ask whether punk bands can really occupy a middle ground, I’ll fall asleep to echoes of, “Only bad ones!” – so we’ll call Great Cynics a rock band with punk influences.

Though Like I Belong sounds in places as though it is still grasping for its defining thread, it sounds a record from a band with enough fluidity and intent about them to both sound compelling in the short term and harbour considerable potential in the long. When bassist Iona Cairns takes the vocals on “Waster”, it’s refreshing over jarring, and when “Back to Hackney” is penetrated by horns, it’s surprising but seamless. These are just freeze-frames of a band that never turn 180 degrees just because they think they should, but veer left and right every so often, and keep the landscape moving as a result.

Its freshness is in its tone – an album recorded mostly live that sounds organic and completely comfortable in its own skin. Great Cynics don’t rely on tricks and winks to get them by, and they’re a lot more convincing for it.

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