Album Review: Squid – ‘Bright Green Field’

Wild experimentation meets world-building excellence on the WARP-spun debut from Squid. Leaving behind quirky talk of houseplants, cleaners, and Sonic Youth superfans, Bright Green Field sees the revivalists gruffly interrogate right-wing propaganda (‘Pamphlets’), and the false and dangerous nature of humanity (‘G.S.K.’). Owen White offers his thoughts.

On their debut LP Squid arrive fully formed, a melting pot of stylish influences from the path least travelled by their post-punk revivalist peers. They incorporate rhythms both foot-tapping as well as brain-melting a la Neu!, the madcap weirdo energy of B-52’s and infuse the volatile concoction with a hint of The Pop Groups devil-may-care experimentalism. Most importantly though they embody these tragically under-mined influences while sounding wholly original. Their music is defined by sardonic humour, generous grooves, and caustic innovation held together by their consistently watertight musicianship. Unlike contemporaries in the freshly reborn British post-punk revival scene and fellow Speedy Wunderground alumni Black Country New Road, Squid’s debut comes without growing pains, already delivered in an assured tone of consummate professionalism.

It’s difficult to say what element might strike a listener first in Squid’s music. Ollie Judge’s commandingly eccentric vocals with their choked yelps and sloshed sermons? His lyrics which are as concerned with urban angst and narcissistic self-obsession as they are the writings of Mark Fisher and the end of culture? The krautrock-flavoured grooves that glue each track together equal parts driving and oppressive? Maybe the lively industrial soundscapes and urban textures the band paints with their exceptional grasp of sonics? The hooks even? To cherry-pick any one of these elements would be to miss out on them all, it’s the synthesis that imbues Squid’s music with its entrancing singularity and uncanny ability to voice bizarre unarticulated facets of the modern youth experience. Even more impressively, each aspect coalescences perfectly to ensure the whole piece remains stuck in your head for days.

‘Squid spend the album’s duration constructing an oddly familiar world that functions ostensibly as a twisted reflection of our own.’

Opener G.S.K. is lyrically the only track on the record that seems like it could’ve emanated straight from our own reality, albeit a heightened form of it. The protagonist finds himself trapped “On concrete island” only able to “wave at the businessmen” before jetting off home through a route of seemingly infinite pharmacies making sure to “pray to the G.S.K,” a British pharmaceutical company, reminding us these stories inhabit what is simply a heightened version of the nightmarish retro-future we all inhabit. A skipping groove consisting of a slinking bassline over mechanical drums with a subtly industrial flavour is quickly built out with serrated chords and dense synths that bring to mind endless rows of billowing smokestacks. The mood is terse, apocalyptic even, perfectly embodying the setting of the lyrics.

Elsewhere, self-reflexivity and meta-narrative concepts are explored and utilised to lambast male entitlement on lead single Narrator, cultural memory is examined and framed as potentially the sole possible escape from urban ennui on Boy Racers, and the dehumanising effect corporate consumerism has had on the spaces we inhabit and by extension ourselves gets probed eerily on 2010. The music further serves to ground these stories, which already feel born of locale, to the dystopian non-future the band envisions across the record. The motoring guitar lines on the chorus of Boy Racers seem to jet off towards the sunset while the circular sputtering synth chords on the verse pull us back towards unto dreary urban monotony. The gradually rising synth-scape that squeals and writhes under hypnotic brass interplay on Documentary Filmmaker as Ollie howls about the heat in the summer before the latter breaks into a liminal funeral dirge for lived experience captures inner-city anxiety perfectly while maintaining an impressive level of uncomfortable detachment.

Squid spend the duration of their new album constructing an oddly familiar, lived-in world that functions ostensibly as a twisted reflection of our own; a funhouse mirror held up to the already unimaginably strange reality of 2021. They succeed on all accounts at making an album that’s equal parts illuminating, hilarious, tragic, and deeply and instantly inviting. The band display a level of virtuosic instrumental interplay few can match in contemporary post-punk and channel their skills into writing some of the stickiest hooks and most enveloping mood pieces on offer from the genre.

Regardless of what happens for the rest of the year Squid have already secured one of the best releases of the year and made it apparent they’re one of the most entrancingly singular voices in modern rock music. Seeing the improvements built upon the already excellent Town Centre EP here can only make you curious to see what they have in store next.

Written by: Owen White

Edited by: Olivia Stock

Featured image courtesy of Squid via Facebook.