Great Cynics - Don't Need Much
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Record Label: Kind of Like Records
“She’s like a good book / You can’t put her down.”
So starts “Home Measures,” the opening track on Great Cynics’ Don’t Need Much. The title of the album proves to slightly foreshadow the listens to come. I’m not sure exactly what it is about Great Cynics that makes them stand out from other rock and roll-centric punk bands, but they do. Whatever it is, it’s not a huge stray from the status quo, but it provides for a sound unique enough to grab anyone listening. That’s more or less how I feel about that line I just quoted; it’s not phenomenally insightful or brilliant, but there’s just some image it brings that’s gripping.
Certainly, Giles Bidder’s British accent doesn’t hurt this band’s accessibility. I swear, Americans like almost anything with a British accent, and this East London three-piece has had that down for, well, probably since they were born. Good for them. Bidder has one of those voices, similar in the intangible sense rather than the stylistic or sonic sense, to Balance and Composure’s Jonathan Simmons or Tigers Jaw’s Adam McIlwee. I’ve written something like this before in a review of one of those two bands, but it just seems like Bidder hardly cares about what his voice sounds like when he’s singing. At the same time, you can tell that despite the relaxed nature of his voice, he’s probably extremely immersed in his writing.
Great Cynics makes impressive use of an organ – something that can be done very well or horrible wrong in this type of music – and that makes for an innately warm feeling in some tracks. “Stones I’ve Thrown” has a late, humid summer night feel to it, which pretty much sums up the mood of the entirety of Don’t Need Much. There are fun, upbeat punk songs (“Nightcaps,” “All the Time Every Time”) that mix and match well with the more singer/songwriter style songs (“Moorhen,” closer “My Quiet Lunch Breaks”), which are probably taken from the remnants of Bidder’s last project.
The standouts are where Great Cynics’ fantastic, quirky pop sensibility comes through. You have the almost illegally catchy “Moorhen,” where you’ll want to sing along to the jangly rhythm during your first listen, but become frustrated that you didn’t know the words before the song started. “Dave and Angela” and “Twenty Five” are other standouts in the same realm, with the former taking on a classic rock, Tom Petty/John Cougar Mellencamp feel in the guitar riff. The guitar tones on Don’t Need Much add a lot to Bidder’s vocals, as they sound almost effortless, playing off his vocal style nicely.
Great Cynics haven’t crafted a punk rock and roll masterpiece or anything, but Don’t Need Much is a pretty solid debut full-length. Kind Of Like Records picked up a band here with a wild potential because of their innate punk-ness but easy accessibility, and it’ll be interesting to see how the band develops as Bidder gets more and more out of the singer/songwriter phase and maybe lets this band just jam a little more. If there’s one thing lacking on the album, it’s large- or even medium-sized chunks of quality musicianship, but there’s definitely a longing for something along these lines in the band’s style.
To sum this up somehow, Great Cynics is sort of like if Against Me! spent a lot of time overseas and adopted British accents, then played a lot of basement shows with one guitar amp that wasn’t that loud and a keyboard organ. Then they wrote a bunch of lyrics telling these awesome little stories and were really chill about it. Don’t Need Much should be enjoyed with the simple things in life that make you happy, like a burrito and a glass of whiskey and Coke, because you don’t really need too much to be happy.
Great review as per usual. This album keeps creeping higher and higher up my favourites of 2011. Would highly recommend trying to catch them at Fest if you're going again this year Thomas, they're solid live.