To say that there are before and after Bright Green Field is perhaps a little too hasty, yet the Brighton natives have offered us an absolutely brilliant experience from start to finish that will be remembered for years to come. They knew how to revisit through the anguish of the world, with the help of a modern signature absolutely personal
For two years now, the underground scene in the United Kingdom has been rising up among the most promising, as the standard of the future. Among the emblematic figures, we find 3 young bands, affiliated by some connections, which already benefit from a flamboyant aura within the informed listeners, as if finally the eyes of the underground were riveted on them, waiting for a miracle. First, Black Midi known for their Experimental Rock content were the first to express themselves with more notoriety, Squid followed closely with an Art Punk/Post-Punk formula, and then Black Country New Road who made a sensation in their own right. Not only does this trio illustrate the future, but it also shows once again that "Punk" is very far from dying, untiring almost 40 years later, as if it still had so much to prove. Of this trinity, only Squid had not yet released a first LP, they have remedied this in May 2021 with Bright Green Field, in a very particular context. Hailing from Brighton, the quintet formed in 2017, comprising only multi-instrumentalists, quickly proved by their creativity, fusing punch and madness the extent of their talent and the huge potential that emerges. If their single The Dial in 2018 allowed them to be spotted by their current producer Dan Carey by signing them first to Speedy Wunderground, it is in 2019 that the group explodes in the heart of this underground scene, especially through live performances and with their EP Town Centre. Despite a year 2020 truncated by the pandemic, preventing them from doing their initial tour, the band signed to Warp Records and took the opportunity to record their first album without pressure, before starting their promotion in early 2021.
Bright Green Field was really one of the albums to follow of the year, especially when we discover the first extracts and I can tell you that all the stars that we could have in the eyes proved to be totally justified. First of all we can observe, although it's not a surprise for those who have followed them until now, an amazing maturity for a young band. In fact, Squid gives the impression of having all the advantages of youth without the imperfections. For this reason, Bright Green Field doesn't feel like a "debut album", and sounds more like a "second or third album" to the extent that Squid avoids all of the beginner's faults. In fact, the Brighton natives have had time to work through the difficulties of their first EPs, refining their formulas while adding new elements. That's why Bright Green Field has become complex to classify, as it doesn't limit itself to Art Punk or Experimental Rock. We can find an impressive panel of influences from the 70's, from Jazz to Krautrock, from Post-Punk to Dance-Punk, always keeping a rather American vain UK. We can also add the love that he carries for the Post-Rock, as much in textures and the proposed atmosphere. With a disconcerting ease, Squid does not lack ambition to deliver a dazzling versatility, alternating styles, without ever seeming predictable. On the other hand, Squid never really gets lost in their organized chaos, as if finally the multiple stylistic or mood changes ended up joining the same objective, and thus creating a coherence that one still wonders how they managed to achieve. Although we end up observing a recurrent or similar formula in the construction of their songs, Squid has this gift to always surprise us, and that several times within the same song. Whatever happens, the band always manages to make its content a living being that evolves and expresses itself in a different way, without ever losing its global nature. On top of that, Squid knows how to make it go from a common dimension to something superior, as if each song was designed and imagined as a work of art. We find this striking theme, articulated around a complex poetry, without forgetting this depth that forces us to return several times on the song in order to begin to understand the meaning, so that these faces hidden in its majority.
Like For the First Time, by their London counterpart, Bright Green Field is an album that thematically leans on the world and the human aspect, through a high intensity fusion between chaos, sophistication and reconstruction. All this coincides of course with the context of the moment, the pandemic, uncertainty, the first effects of the Brexit, materialism, the virtual and this perpetual megalomania of a world that does not feel like it is going round. In addition to being already great individually and together, Squid can count on a wonderful production proposed by Dan Carey, the 6th member that allows to perfect the content, without affecting the energy and the naturalness of the band. If Bright Green Field seems to start with a melodic and warm instrumentation, G.SK is a kind of satire turned to derision where Squid seems to draw up a character subjected to the obligation. In a way the authors use as a main subject the British multinational and global pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, and also a reference to the novel Concrete Island, where the protagonist is forced to live in isolation and survive with the remains of humanity. From the beginning of the album, Squid shows his fangs, combining poetry, metaphor and engaged themes. If G.S.K is not necessarily political, it is at least societal, as very often in the album. Squid relies very regularly on the aspect of powerful to submissive, where the constraint, the urgency and the vulnerability that it is conscious or unconscious occupy a significant role throughout the work. Musically it is also a superb entry, we feel a synthesizer that translates the time that passes, Ollie Judge makes his voice resonate in a clear way to perceive the echoes, and the warm instrumentation sprinkled with horns comes to embellish the sound landscape.
Narrator is undoubtedly a masterpiece, even beyond the album, to be registered at least in the triumphs of this decade. This song is a pure madness, as much musically as poetically. Based on the desire of a male narrator to create his world and a "dominated" woman who wishes to escape from it for which the singer Martha Skye Murphy was proposed to play this role. It all starts with a groovy instrumentation, lulled by synthesizer, a rhythmic drive and guitar embellishments. Faithful to the Dance-Punk where Oliver Judge draws up the subject with conviction, but the confrontation between the man and the woman ends up exploding, thus releasing a whole other facet of the song, which is directed towards a Post-Rock oppressive. We notice all the progression of this one, of the distress of the singers who oppose each other, through an absolutely brilliant crescendo. At the end of the chaos, Narrator takes you in 8 minutes and 29 minutes of happiness, where every second offers a breathtaking intensity. Boy Racers also illustrates this very anxious theme that we observe in different forms during the album, through a series of interrogations where finally the character of the story is always stuck hoping for something. It's a bit like "I know I have to do it, but what's the point? Or I know I have to do it, but I'm paralyzed. We feel it musically through the evolution and the turn that Boy Racers takes, the first 3 minutes offers a Dance-Punk faithful to their style before switching into a whole other dimension, both industrial and very terrifying, which gives the impression of being in total levitation, slowed down by the threatening atmosphere. What an extraordinary ending. In an icy and futuristic atmosphere, Paddling stands out for its catchy instrumentation, which propels you in a space-time loop that recalls the musical turning point of the very late 70s when the New Wave hit the world. Paggling is a frantic synthetic race that sticks to your skin, relatively mechanical but warm enough. Behind the robotic aspect, this song testifies to the urgency, Squid seems to draw a caricature of a world that moves, the human pressed and forced to follow the movement. If the production of the time of the New Wave did not really retransmit what emerged from the human side, the Paddling experience takes advantage of all the emotion hidden behind the industrial and frenetic sounds, like a kind of constant earthquake.
If the 3 singles released before proposed a rage and an energy close to the chaos before the end of the world, the rest of the album ventures more generally in the calm, some excesses and the use of the space in an atmospheric and spontaneous way. Documentary Filmmaker is the perfect example, it gives the impression of being gently caressed musically, like being transported on an absolutely tender journey. It is rare to see them deliver a performance that gives the impression of being in total fulfillment. However, as always, this hides a few things, notably this will by the treated subject to make appear this false feeling of security, an attitude that we feel very strongly with the current pandemic context. Reassure and convince yourself of some things, like a kind of reverse anxiety allowing you to move forward. What is phenomenal about Squid is that first of all they are as strong in the chaos as they are in the calm game. Not only that, but Brighton natives are also able to find many ways to express themes that are globally correlated. The same goes for the ideas they use for their musical diversity and the approach they take. On 2010, for example, you hear Squid deliver a real melody for the first time, without being wrapped in the down-to-earth bluntness of the punk poet. This song is a very melancholic ballad, where the secondary instrumentation has as much importance as the one that is put forward. There is a multitude of details, as if you were propelled in space and you do not know where to give your head at such points it is splendid. There is always this notion of gravitation, of weightlessness, as opposed to a more down to earth formula. It is enough to rely on the interlude The Flyover which totally illustrates these remarks. On a languid instrumental, Squid lets speak again their love for jazz, improvisation and also Krautrock in its mysterious and cosmic side.
Peel St is another demonstration of Squid's ease in delivering an oppressive dance-punk. We feel an absolutely frenetic energy, supported on one side by the echo effects and articulated on the other side around an aggressive instrumentation. The time of a bridge, Squid gets lost in an absolutely hypnotic, elegant and contemplative imaginary world, which turned out to be back for the end of the song. In fact, when you think about it, although the album doesn't necessarily offer a precise transition between the songs, nor the themes necessarily identical, the 11 songs of Bright Green Field fit together like a logical sequence, linked by obvious correlations and showing the whole palette of the band. Obviously you can imagine that with such a high rating, there are no songs to remove, but it is also explained by the fact that each element is essential, as much in the sense that Squid will always succeed in expressing his talent in some way, by aggressiveness, by calm or by noise, as all the songs seem to articulate naturally between them as a logical sequence. When we take for example Global Groove, a very complex and deeply sinister song in its atmosphere, Squid gives itself up totally to darkness and self-denial, but for all that it is a very good start to what will happen in the outroduction. It is therefore logical that Bright Green Field ends with Pamphlets, a tortured poetry where the chaos that Squid proposes finds its fulfillment. Pamphlets is probably one of the most complex and technical songs of the album, as much thematically, musically and also to create the perfect fusion of these two aspects. Basically it has all the elements that describe Squid, that is to say this groovy formula that evolves over the minutes to something more atmospheric and tortured. Judge's voice resounds like a scream of rage, while his bandmates multiply the intensity and the emotion that they have to draw from the essence of the subject. The truth that Pamphlets proposes remains very abstract, besides all that is amplified by an aggressive and expressive poetry and by a surreal instrumentation, that gives this impression to never have the definitive answer. Especially since the term Pamphlets has many meanings, from political to apocalyptic. I think it's a bit of both, or at least in correlation, which can illustrate an anxious and terrifying world in which we don't find ourselves, led by people who are more calculating than supportive. It is also here that we understand to some extent the essence of Squid and this first album Bright Green Field transpires something palpable and extremely committed, as a youth apart and not in its place, while it on the contrary supposed to take back in its turn the keys of the world.