The hugely ambitious and experimental Brighton-based 5-piece Squid formed in 2016. Their unique and multi-faceted soundscapes which defy the genre mark them as one of Britain’s most exciting new bands. After a string of singles over the past few years, Squid have released their debut album ‘Bright Green Field’ and it does not disappoint.
In its 11 eclectic tracks, ‘Bright Green Field’ brings together every bright idea the group ever had and executes it with precision. Grinding guitars and drums are contrasted with striking string and horn ensembles and interwoven with ambient synths. Lyrics cover everything from the mundanity of everyday life to the prevalent socio-political issues of today. But it is by no means a bleak affair, and instead tackles these topics with humour and sarcasm.
The album opens with the jarring 40-second intro ‘Resolution Square’. Sounding like it came straight out of a Sci-Fi film, it works as an appropriate tone setter for the rest of the record.
The record immediately jolts into its first full track ‘G.S.K.’, which stands for the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. Its clattering percussion and brass section suggest that it was made to be played loud. Lead singer Oliver Judge’s fierce vocal delivery and tongue-in-cheek lyricism (‘I hope my dinner is warm’) prevail. It is also one of the shorter, and perhaps more radio-friendly tunes. Yet, it still showcases the experimentation Squid have become synonymous with.
Lead single ‘Narrator’ follows, in all its 8 minutes 29 seconds of meandering glory. ‘I am my own narrator’ declares Judge, whose harsh vocals are complimented by the softer whispers of guest singer Martha Skye Murphy. Inspired by the 2018 film ‘A Long Day’s Journey Into Night’, the lyrics deal with control and agency. This track begins more punk-oriented, with Clash-esque guitars. But it slowly spirals into industrial instrumentals and a screaming section courtesy of Murphy towards the end.
From post-punk and shiny pop…
By contrast, ‘Boy Racers’ is a shiny, pop-inspired tune driven by Judge’s expressive and often sarcastic-sounding voice. At its midway point, ‘Boy Racers’ mutates into an eerie space-tinged synth section reminiscent of Kraftwerk.
‘Paddling’ begins with the twang of a guitar, plucked from a Western film before quietly building into a sonic soundscape. As the pace picks up, chants of ‘patient, in control […] just do what you’re told’ kick in, with Judge echoing them. This track masters the speed-up-slow-down technique often found in music of epic proportions.
The jazzy ‘Documentary Filmmaker’ is next, with instrumentals that would not be out of place in an elevator. Judge confronts the commercialisation of public holidays, noting ‘the eggs, they’re always cheaper, the day after Easter’. It’s the sort of observational humour you might expect from the poetry of Philip Larkin or Blur’s string of mid-90s albums. The twinkly chimes of a piano act as the outro for this track, demonstrating Squid’s versatility.
…to Psychedelia and Krautrock
‘2010’ is a psychedelic affair, with its whirring and winding instrumental, and repetitive lyrics. Out of nowhere it breaks down into pure post-punk guitars before returning to its slower psych-rock sound. ‘I’m upside down’ Judge repeats, suggesting a sense of disillusionment with everyday life.
‘The Flyover’ serves as an interlude, combining synths and a brass section, layered with indistinguishable utterances. This transitions beautifully into the futuristic ‘Peel St.’ which feels like it was manufactured in some sort of spacelab.
Lyrically, it alludes to the post-apocalyptic novel ‘Ice’ by Anna Kavan, as Judge asks ‘where were you when the ice came to town?’. Although it could easily be interpreted as a track tackling climate change. Drums are the driving force here, along with a pulsating bassline which suddenly mutates into a sonic dance-beat.
Yet again, Squid fuse genres as they return to crashing drums and guitar rock. Like ‘Narrator’, ‘Peel St.’ is perturbed by questions of autonomy, with closing lyrics ‘now I’m free, there’s no warden following me’.
Much of the record has a decidedly krautrock sound, so it is no surprise that Squid cite the sprawling songs of NEU! as an influence. The cultish ‘Global Groove’ with its pounding drumbeat and drone is inspired by a retrospective exhibition of Nam June Paik’s work which Judge saw at the Tate. Judge sings ‘Watch your favourite war on TV, just before you go to sleep /And then your favourite sitcom, watch the tears roll down your cheek’ to the mechanical crank of the instrumental. He told Apple Music it is a statement about how 24-hour news can ‘desensitize you to large-scale wars and death’. In its final third, ‘Global Groove’ winds down with a fuzzy walkie-talkie style spoken outro.
A sonic journey
The album closer ‘Pamphlets’ is an upbeat post-punk ode. Guitarist and vocalist Louis Borlase describes it as ‘an important part of our set, particularly finishing a set, because it’s quite a long blow-out ending’. The vocal delivery grows more fiery, more furious as the song progresses, with Judge yelling ‘That’s why I don’t go outside’.
‘Bright Green Field’ is an immersive record, which takes the listener on a sonic journey of musical styles. It will be interesting to see where Squid head in the future, and if they plan to expand on any one of these specific styles. At 54 minutes in length, the album equally satisfies avid listeners whilst anticipating much excitement for the next Squid project.
Squid will perform on Later With Jools Holland on Friday 21st May at 10pm on BBC2. They will embark on a socially distanced tour in May and June, before their rescheduled 2020 tour in July. This will be followed by the ‘Bright Green Field’ album tour in September and October 2021. Tour dates are listed below, and include several Manchester dates.
Head Music Editor @ The Mancunion. Freelance Music and Culture Writer @ DIY, The Line of Best Fit, Gigwise, etc. Avid gig-goer and alt-rock enthusiast! Twitter: @tayl0rsarah LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-taylor-48a562211/