In Review: Squid – Bright Green Field

Squid's debut album has lived up to the hype: it’s hard to pin down the album because it’s always changing. It continually mutates throughout, which is part of what makes it so enthralling.
Posted: 11 May 2021 Words: Miles Ellingham

I once read that squids are Cephlapods, and that evolutionary scientists often disagree about where they came from. Some even joke that they’re aliens. Squid – the band – come from Brighton, but they’re just as mysterious. Ever since their emergence back in 2017, they’ve set themselves apart from other guitar bands. They’ve got this delirious, experimental vigour and their songs dissolve in and out of genres. They’ve also bucked the indie-trend in signing with Warp Records, the electronic label behind Squarepusher and Aphex Twin. Now, finally, they’ve released their debut LP, Bright Green Fieldeleven tracks of musical world-building.

Bright Green Field merges the spasmodic, spoken poetry of Frank Zappa with the jolting jazz inflections of James Chance. All through the album Squid revel in its immersive storytelling. The LP kicks off with ‘GSK’, a towering vision of a dystopic, pharmaceutical nightmare. “As the sun sets on the GlaxoKline/ Well, it's the only way that I can tell the time…” howls lead vocalist and drummer, Ollie Judge, imagining a future in which the corporate offices of GSK have become a Neolithic sundial, assuming the spiritual value of Stonehenge. “On Concrete Island, I wave at the businessman/ On Concrete Island, well, I hope my dinner is warm” - it’s like J. G. Ballard put to music.

‘Paddling’ is another noteworthy track. Here, Squid seem to be having fun and the call and response between Louis Borlase’s discordant guitar and Judge’s belted vocals is genuinely captivating. ‘Documentary Filmmaker’, too, has a brilliant trumpet line which acts to countermand the endless, flat lethargy of the lyrics describing an in-patient waiting out the seasons – some warm, some snowy. Apparently, ‘Documentary Filmmaker’ tells the story of a loved one admitted to a hospital for an eating disorder.

More than anything, Bright Green Field just sounds exceptionally good – it’s crisp and cutting when it needs to be, but also dreamlike, dusty and spacious too. This is thanks in no small part to Dan Carey – the man behind black midi and Fontaines D.C., Carey handled the production for Squid, which he’s been doing for quite some time. It’s hard to pin down Bright Green Field because it’s always changing. It mutates as it goes which is part of what makes it so enthralling, and Carey keeps dutiful watch over Squid’s many mutations.

Discussing the album, Judge has already mentioned to the music press that he was influenced by the work of Mark Fisher, Douglas Couplan and Merlin Coverely – and it shows. The titular Bright Green Field is itself a kind of promised land, an escape from the grim, capitalist realism imagined throughout the album. Bright Green Field is incredibly long (some would say too long; it’s fifty-four minutes) but the album is put together with such craftsmanship that it flies by, because it takes you along with it on a journey through a continually evolving landscape of imaginary spaces.

The best song on the LP is the penultimate one, ‘Global Groove’. It stands out from the rest for its brass harmonies and immersive slowness.  ‘Global Groove’ is an attempt to document the disorienting, postmodern mediascape we all live in, connected at all times to hyperreal visions of war and destruction – mixed-in with sitcoms and TikTok. “Watch your favourite war on TV just before you go to sleep” Judge tells the listener. The last line of ‘Global Groove’ is muttered in a benzo drawl through a grainy phone-line, “I’m being exposed to too much… realism…”

I know I’m in danger of over-intellectualising this album – and yes, Judge does occasionally sound like he’s doing a bad impression of Jim Carrey – but there’s a fullness and depth to the music that’s truly mesmerising, even without the lyrics. Bright Green Field has lived up to the hype, Squid’s debut is a coherent, conceptually involving collection of songs.

Bright Green Field is out now via Warp Records.

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