By B. Simm
CALGARY – When Rich Paxton sails high singing the chorus line to “High At Work,” the first single released off Free The Cynics’ second EP, Post-Iconica, he does it with such conviction, without a trace of irony or sarcasm, that he’s really got you going — this man loves his job! That’s until you listen to the rest of the lyrics a little more closely, which then changes everything.
Snakes stare from my screen
Send a surgeon or a priest…
Mirror tells me what I don’t, what I don’t wanna see
I’m a cacophony of scumbaggery
Nothing’s easy, nothing works, time slows down ’til it hurts
Only way I can deal
I’m high at work
I’m high at work…
It took Paxton, originally from Edinburgh, 22 months to secure a work visa in Canada. During the wait he made good use of his time, started a rock ‘n’ roll band and enjoyed the lifestyle. When he did land his first job, the transition to routine was tough.
“I started working for this lawyer’s office, it was awful, horrible. I had to wear this uniform and was photocopying all day, everyday. ‘How would you like it? Collated, doubled-sized?’ All that shit. It was making me so upset,” recalls Paxton speaking in a smooth brogue Scottish accent, shaking his head, still feeling the bad vibes.
“But I was also partying quite a bit at that time, and caring less about that job than I probably should have. There was a few times I went to work, altered. Definitely more altered than I should have been,” shrugs Paxton, with a sheepish grin.
Certainly not the first time a bit of bad behaviour made for a great song. In fact, Paxton’s trials and tribulations keeping the Cynics alive is probably why their latest release bursts with blazing energy and artful precision. The revamped line-up featuring Erik Juergens (guitar), Brad Vedekind (bass) and Joey DeCosse (drums) blends tough, up-beat jazzy melodies, romping dance floor rhythms and smart arrangements that echo the pop brilliance of Bowie and Manchester in the ‘80s. Mentioning Morrisey puts a bright smile on Paxton’s face.
Collectively, each member of Free The Cynics own a share of the band. Juergens, who Paxton says was a shy boy when he first joined, turns out fiery riffs and dazzling solos forceful as a missile attack then lyrical as falling fireworks. Vedekind, a deep groove progressive R&B ace, locks on to DeCosse’s rock steady beats that can drop down, change up and turn on a dime. And Paxton, definitely not the whimsical type, boasts an impressive range, a flying Scotsman in his own right.
An angry Scotsman too. The rumble of drums that leads off “Vessel” sets the tone to the Cynics’ political perspective without “going all Bono.” And when Paxton hits the chorus, he doesn’t hold back, fiercely spewing out a call to arms, “Don’t just stand there, don’t just stand there. Pick, pick, pick. Pick up a weapon!”
Paxton explains the song’s impetus: “What are we doing about Trump? Or any other maniac? What are we doing about it? Fuck all. So start a riot. Do it! If there’s two million people in motion, who’s going to stop that? Nobody. Just fucking do it!”
Produced by Kirill Telichev, Post-Iconica is a stark but bold recording. By emphasizing the strength of each musician coated with Paxton’s emotive power, Telichev masterfully cultivates the band’s ready-set-go impulse alongside its won’t-get-fooled-again stance — the Cynics unchained.
Free The Cynics’ release show for Post-Iconica, on Zen Palace Records, is Friday, July 21 at the Nite Owl.Free The Cynics, Nite Owl, Post-Iconica, Zen Palace Records