Crackheads running rampant in England streets, mental wards overflowing with patients, the grassy pastures of rural Britain. Squid’s jazzy post-punk revival opus, the eclectically apocalyptic ‘Bright Green Fields’, attempts to tackle the un-urbanized section of their homeland, a massive 90+% of England that goes oblivious to outsiders, stepping into the shoes of those who live past the picture-perfect facade portraying England as nothing but sunny green fields and stunning cityscapes without sacrificing any of old-school dance/post-punk’s boisterous eccentricities and palpable grooves in the process.
In two words, Squid’s multi-faceted, freakish, almost schizophrenic debut is misleadingly playful. The band’s greatest skill unquestionably lies in their unpredictability. Many songs begin with the same astoundingly confident, instantaneously sticky feel pioneered by post-punk genre giants such as Talking Heads and Gang of Four, yet by the time you reach a song’s first bridge or hook you’re getting plunged down the most sinister and gaping pits of hell. Once you’ve reached a track’s ending, you’ll already be so thoroughly engulfed in the pandemonium that you won’t want to leave. Truthfully, very few modern artists have shown to contain half the amount of dynamism and virtuosity that Squid has, even with the band's especially compact catalog.
In a lot of ways, they feel like the best of both worlds. Squid takes the crypticness of Windmill-mates black midi and Black Country, New Road, and brings back the relentless rhythms of post-punk past, a sound that has, sadly, become lost in those artists' music, while still retaining the avant-garde, cacophonous, and dystopian world-building techniques the latest wave of post-punk artists have become renown for. Shorter post-punk belters, such as ‘G.S.K.’ and ‘Peel St.’, feel no less monumental than the 8+ minute post-punk abysses, namely ‘Narrator’ and ‘Pamphlets’, even when sitting right next to them in the tracklist. The album’s most fascinating moments, however, come in the form of its most bohemian. ‘Documentary Filmmaker’ chronicles the explosion of a deranged man’s temper by steadily ascending in magnitude until it reaches its visceral crescendo, only to then devolve into placid, descending brass, showcasing the perfect dichotomy between delicate and disorderly. Meanwhile, ‘Boy Racers’ presents itself as a rather conventional Squid song, until the three-minute mark, where the track crumbles into a 4-minute drone passage that sounds like drifting off into deep space. The five-piece, while feeling unprecedented in a way and, dare I say it, like the sound of post-punk to come, are not afraid to show what artists their success is imbued to. Ollie Judge encompasses the brazen expressiveness of a David Bryne, with a touch of James Murphy, albeit amplified a couple of notches, doused with more aggression and urgency, and hurtling at you with the force of a wrecking ball, while the rest of the band carry out the unending instrumental progressiveness of Pink Floyd, the shrieking climax of ‘Narrator’ specifically tears a page out of Pink Floyd’s script. It’s the perfect balance of both past and future, feeling like a timeless classic yet also the genre’s imminent future, a project I feel has the potential to serve as the groundwork to forthcoming post-punk acts.
Consumerism, globalization, Brexit, corruption, the always evolving technological landscape, and the impoverished side of England seem to be the methods behind Squid's vehement madness. While England, from the outside looking in, may appear hospitable and picturesque, taking a closer look will reveal less-than-presentable parts of the country, areas that Squid has sought to encapsulate through their towering labyrinths of compositions. Whether it's the imagery of a nomad traveling across an English city on 'G.S.K.' or the unyielding proclamations of "I'll play mine" scattered throughout 'Narrator', Squid usually communicates their themes through either turning what they're trying to address into people, then letting these people's stories play out in song form, alongside substantial repetition, which may make the project a bit hard to digest for some. In fact, the entire album may be hard to digest at first. It's most certainly a project that takes time to make heads or tails of, with as many violent twists as a swirling rollercoaster, constantly moving you closer to the edge of your seat in uncertainty as to where the songs will go.
While I fail to see 'Bright Green Field' changing naysayers’ opinions on the recent outbreak of post-punk revivalism, anyone who has accepted the soundscapes the recent outbreak of Gen-Z post-punk acts have constructed will find themselves completely absorbed and enamored by Squid’s inventiveness and fervor. Truly a must-listen from this year, one that serves as both a marvelous debut that will prove challenging to outdo and a phenomenal step forward for post-punk.
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FAVORITE TRACKS: G.S.K., Narrator, Boy Racers, Paddling, Peet St., The Flyover, Global Groove, Pamphlets
WORST TRACK: Documentary Filmmaker