Squid aren’t an easy band to pin down. Live, they’re a mesh of arms and legs working in semi-unison – perhaps that’s where the sub-aqueous name comes from? – a group of musicians who yearn for spaces new, and ideas hitherto unexplored. On record, too, they’ve proved continually that resting on their laurels isn’t an option. Debut album ‘Bright Green Field’ encapsulates this, eschewing their prior works – that stellar EP, or 2020 singles ‘Sludge’ and ‘Broadcaster’ – in favour of wiping the slate clean, and starting anew.
It’s proved to be a daring, and emphatically correct decision. A wrecking ball of innovative ideas that refuses to be wrestled into a pigeonhole, ‘Bright Green Field’ is an invigorating, inspired listen, and holds its head high as one of the most complete guitar debuts 2021 will witness.
‘Resolution Square’ is a formless intro, the sound of something coming into focus. ‘G.S.K.’ erupts out of the mystery, the squelching horns and lurid guitar lines conspiring to evolve into something riveting, but uncategorisable. The rather more sprightly, angular, and downright catchy ‘Narrator’ comes next, a song that epitomises their all-in group approach, and their ability to subvert anything that even vaguely resembles ‘pop’. Stretching out to eight minutes and aided by Martha Skye Murphy’s vocal, it finds Squid endlessly chasing down fresh ideas, somehow hemming these into something coherent.
‘Boy Racers’ hinges on that dot-dash Morse code guitar line, it’s awkward funk finessing the group’s seam between form and formless. ‘Paddling’ is an altogether more spacious experience, while somehow retaining the taut, compressive atmosphere of the album’s earlier cuts.
‘Documentary Filmmaker’ is a kind of grinding, Brutalist piece of avant rock, its darkness illuminated by the vivacity which haloes follow-on ‘2010’ (a vivacity which in turn gives way to some gnarly metal scenes). If ‘The Flyover’ offers 70 seconds of respite, it also serves to reset the palette, allowing space for ‘Peel St.’ and ‘Global Groove’ to invigorate with their compact, multi-faceted audio landscapes.
Ending with the remarkable eight minute feast ‘Pamphlets’, Squid seem able to fuse together dissonant ideas in a very cellular fashion; it’s surreal, and often sounds wrong, but feels forever right, held together by some internal logic. Dan Carey’s production perhaps holds the key here – in emphasising the performance over the object, you’re swept up in the same helter-skelter energies which make Squid such a stunning live experience.
In the accompanying press note, Squid’s Ollie Judge references the work of writers such as Mark Fisher, with an emphasis on the erasure of the future. It’s an apt point when assessing Squid, and their inspired debut album. Having played sets at Brixton’s Windmill and with a penchant for angular riffs, they’ve become linked to the ongoing post-punk resurgence; while we certainly hear aspects of the futurism which drove Gang Of Four to such epic heights, they more readily recall the sense of possibility which lingers in Tortoise or Can, for example, or even (and in a different sonic field) Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s work.
It’s this desire for the unknown which makes ‘Bright Green Field’ such a potent debut album. Succinct yet packed with stunning detail, it refuses to take the easy way out, and that stubbornness may see Squid outstrip their peers in a head-long race towards a re-engaged future.
Words: Robin Murray
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