On Record – Squid: Bright Green Field (Warp Records)

squid

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Squid are a fascinating proposition. The cover of Bright Green Field promises much in terms of pastoral beauty and optimistic music, but the reality is often at complete odds with the picture. While there are indeed pastoral moments, found in field recordings of bees and church bells, there are moments of outright anger at the direction in which society, and British society in particular, is going.

This reflects the quintet’s position in Brighton, from where they can see both the attractive and vulgar elements of living in Britain, and the corporate traps too. G.S.K., for instance, details the chemical conglomerate GlaxoSmithKline as being so big you can now tell the time by them.

What’s the music like?

As fascinating and multi-layered as the lyrics. It is not possible to pin Squid down to a single style; rather it is instructive to say what they are capable of doing and how they communicate. What really strikes the listener is how assured it all is, and that no matter what style they use to communicate, they do it with great intensity.

Drummer and vocalist Ollie Judge has a glorious unpredictability, moving from wry observations to excited yelps at the flick of a switch. Several Squid songs change mood like the weather, and the music follows suit – but always in thrall to the lyrics, never for the sake of it. At times they channel the calculated rock of Battles, while the style of Narrator brings reminders of The Rapture, building up into a ritualistic frenzy. Some of the tracks are left as unkempt, but in a good way – and Boy Racers definitely falls into this category, its cheery punk pop grinding to a halt before a woozy interlude starts to blur the senses.

As Bright Green Field progresses, there continues to be a refreshing willingness to disregard the musical rules. Paddling is brilliant, an oblique melody dominating until Judge’s repeated cry of “Don’t push me in!” Rich brass sonorities open up in The Flyover, while Global Groove proves an effective snapshot of the album, building tension with a brass and guitar payoff as Judge gets more and more animated. Finally the lyrical content of Pamphlets emphasises the Britishness of the band in spite of the krautrock influences deployed here, working up a lather as the song progresses.

Does it all work?

Unexpectedly, and in spite of the listener’s expectations. Squid challenge our perceptions of genre on a regular basis, stomping all over the dividing lines. They have such a firm confidence in what they do that their musical workings are instinctive, and their rebellious nature is countered by pastoral asides. There is plenty of seething anger here, too, but none of it is misplaced.

Is it recommended?

Yes, without hesitation. Pretty Green Field contains some of the most original pop music you will hear from a new band in 2021.

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