Updated: May 19
Favorite Track: "Peel St." Least Favorite Track: "Resolution Square"
The UK has been a cultural breeding ground for some of the most interesting and groundbreaking post-punk acts of the last 5 years. Many bands who have worked with record producer/engineer Dan Carey under the label Speedy Wunderground have continued to make rounds with critics and hungry post-punk fans alike who have grown tired of the played out sounds that the post-punk revival of the early 2000’s had to offer. From the ashes of the post-punk revival though, a new movement has begun that is much more focused on avant-garde sensibilities and wacked-out compositions that cater to those inclined to experimentalism in their music consumption. Spearheading this movement are bands like black midi and Black Country, New Road, but as the genre continues to find its sound and evolve, the leading face of the genre evolves as well. For anyone continuing to follow the scene and choose who they believe is the most promising young band emerging right now, look no farther than Squid, a 5-piece who more than prove themselves on their debut Bright Green Field.
For those who found enjoyment in Black Country, New Road’s debut album For the first time, you should be able to draw a lot of the same enjoyment from Bright Green Field. Sporadic horns are scattered all over tracks like “G.S.K.” and “Documentary Filmmaker”, a characteristic that adds so much unabashed personality and instrumental identity to the record. A lot of the manic vocal inflections that made For the first time so endearing are also present on this record from Squid’s own Ollie Judge, whose voice has a stark timbre to it that can change from deeply pensive to terrified in an instant. Both records are brimming over with personality and creativity, but for those looking for complete similarity, you may be disappointed.
On Bright Green Field, Squid often allows their tracks to run on the longer end, with their song compositions experimenting in repetition and tension-building in a wholly unique way. Take the closing track “Pamphlets” for example. The track begins with a simple plucky guitar riff and some aggressive drumming from Ollie, but as the song progresses, it falls deeper into madness with the lyrics becoming fed up with the constant bombardment with advertising in a capitalist society. The track explodes in strange places, sometimes building immense tension within the song structure that eventually manages to pay off with the slightest shift in musical composition.
Squid also takes aim at oppressive political ideals on “G.S.K.” and “Peel St.”, the latter of which may be their best song to date. “G.S.K” is named after the stock symbol for the british pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, with Ollie taking snarky shots at the company saying that he “prays to the G.S.K.”, highlighting the corrupt and almost god-like place that pharmaceutical companies tend to play in European societies. Meanwhile, “Peel St.” takes more aim at cowardly politicians, with lyrics alluding to the novel Ice by Anna Kavan, in which the world is slowly covered in ice as a side effect to nuclear warfare. Ollie’s accusatory shrieks of “Where were you when the Ice came around/You don’t remember?” takes issue with people that he feels hide behind those who feel the brunt of political ramifications, and the result is nothing short of politically manic bliss.
The record also takes multiple avant-garde approaches behind the band’s signature Talking Heads-esque guitar riffs and off-kilter vocal styles, especially on the back end of the track “Boy Racers”. The song begins with a cut-and-dry post-punk aesthetic, but after the midpoint the band breaks into an eerie and haunting passage that feels equal parts scary, unsettling, and deeply beautiful. The utilization of vibrant strings and throbbing bass notes compliment the freakish howls of a synthesizer that acts as a unique musical moment on a record that can sometimes fall victim to a limited sound palette.
Bright Green Field is a game of opposites. Over the record’s fifty-five minute runtime, the band presents contradictions that feel as though they shouldn’t logically work, but the band manages to pull them off with flying colors. Mania and inner peace fight with each other constantly, explosive musical passages turn eerily beautiful within an instant, defeatist environmental and political messages retain a waning glimmer of hope. Sarcasm and horribly serious subject matter play off of each other, stupendously heavy musical moments teeter on the edge of avant-garde jazz, and despite the long run-time and somewhat long song structures, the record never feels boring or uninspired. Bright Green Field is a masterwork in exploring the world around; it is filled with multiple optimistic messages and genuine hope for change, but it is also often nightmarish, loud, overwhelming, and for some, that just may be too much. For those who choose to let Squid in though, the reward is magnificent and plentiful.