80 - 4 bops ('Narrator,' 'Paddling,' 'Peel St.' 'Pamphlets')
I suppose there’s much to say about the things that aren’t said. Squid believes so; they exemplify it. Rarely could you call their vocals truly melodic. There’s always a tinge of feeling, aggression, anger, a fever pitch, at times, of all of it at once. As strange as it seems, this off-putting, British post-punk band still has control through it all. They waver from sound to sound, voice to voice, distortion to cry back to the static-y sounds of this artificial sonic landscape they craft. At times, immaculate, always dissonant, always moving, only truly tied down by some thematic criticisms. I’ve always found myself gravitating towards punk of any kind, but Squid’s eclectic sounds are some of the most deliberate and meditative I’ve ever heard. It may not always come together, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t memorable.
There’s a beginning of noise, the electronic ambient sounds that govern the nature of this album established within ‘Resolution Square,’ the program Squid thrusts us within something not quite as natural as we want it to seem. It’s a matrix of the landscape of Squid’s home, its imperfections and blemishes within, the stage set for Squid’s broader statements. ‘G.S.K’ is our first journey through the matrix, something off, something amiss. Its slight jazz grooves within the brass harmonies lulling the listener into some kind of dirge, until growing in sound, the screaming vocals an accent on the queerness of the present situations. We’ve been moving for so long, going nowhere, it's nowhere. Why can’t we move? The matrix crashes. It was wrong again. Perhaps we can try again.
It’s important to note the meta-criticisms of the society outside of Squid’s creation that can be found through their sounds and lyrics. ‘Narrator’ decries traditionally held gender beliefs of the British landscape outside of the cities, in that stagnant place which can’t be escaped. ‘G.S.K’ is an escape gone wrong, like the ideas existing within that echo chamber. ‘Narrator’ is the next, a probe in the wrong direction, and probably my favorite track given to its constant build and dissonant transitions, culminating in some primal form of pain in those screams by Martha Skye Murphy. They’re melodically un-melodic, dramatically flared, pitched up and down. It’s as though she is being ripped apart by a million strings, and this extends back to the nature of considering Bright Green Field as an artificial matrix. The entire album is an internal recreation of beliefs, feelings, pains, and sorrows that Squid has towards the place they call home. They boxed it into a simulation, half-finished, the sounds not connected; they’re a cacophony. ‘Narrator’ is the first of these cacophonous tracks, and Squid never tried to piece it all together.
‘Boy Racers’ pertains to a dream within the dream, a double-matrix, and there’s a boy. Or, perhaps there’s not. The boy racers are as much conceptions of societal ideals as they are genuine, vague examples of people whom the speaker can’t bear to reckon with, and, if it’s any example of a man who can’t comprehend his subjective surroundings, the matrix breaks down. It’s all noise now; synthetic drones droning, droning, up, down. The speaker is splitting, the listener is following. Where are we now? Why, we never left. The matrix is gone again, cometh for the third time. Nothing is processable here. All comes to a crashing halt.
Again, the speaker is going to reckon with the people around him, more physically this time, rather than those dreamy ideas that broke before. ‘Paddling’ is governed more by electronics than any previous track. The entire background track is made up of a drum machine for the beginning two minutes, and then the synthetic drone transitions into a double-time chorus. The sense of momentum is palpable; the speaker is running away from whoever these people are. They’re chasing, pulling, pushing. ‘Don’t push me in,’ the guitar crescendos, the synthetic drone more and more, the voices shout, defiant, but failing. Just as before, the speaker always ends in a state of chaos, disorder, discontent. Just as before, the synthetic drone crashes the track to a halt, and then something quieter.
Now, the brass returns. The horns cast through the matrix, half-sounding like actual horns, half like a distorted keyboard, hiding just behind the real sounds, something artificial. Sonically, ‘Documentary Filmmaker’ is the most at odds with itself, the transitions not as clear, the build not as cathartic. The speaker is angry at this entity, that filmmaker. Surely, he mustn't be angry at the person. Is it a person? No, it’s the outsider. Why come to this home and only look from the outside? Stay for the seasons, the speaker cries, stay for what I know, or you know nothing at all. The filmmaker leaves, and the speaker sits down for a moment, a quiet sadness filling the mix. So, the speaker wasn’t angry at anything specifically, but he’s sad about everything. Sad for what?
This matrix is calmer, the speaker more careful to not push the bounds as before. The synthetic drone remains in the back of his ear. The voices harmonize in the lyrics more so than any previous track in ‘2010,’ but the matrix is nothing but volatile, and the speaker nothing but its mirror. This is his warped vision of his rigid existence. The vision shifts as the speaker’s mental state does, but the world always remains the same, the guitars returning after a brief moment of cacophonous sound escapes the bellowing throat of the speaker’s ghastly thoughts. Nothing changed. Everything breaks, nothing changes. It’s so queer, this matrix. Upside-down, right-side-up cage. It is a box that contains the dissonant sounds of a man struggling to find satisfaction in a world that he wants to change, but can not.
For a moment, he has a memory. The horns are purposefully pitchy, not quite harmonizing into a chord. Dissonant sound is only the most purposeful example of struggle. He imagines the gusty, green hill, looking down upon the town. He imagines the gulls. He is the gull. A gust carries him forth. He looks down. There, the man sleeping on the bench, the constable clearing the streets, the man routinely walking past, not a look given. As a gull, he can see it all. The man wishes they could see, but it is only him who flies in ‘The Flyover.’
It’s time to go away. ‘Peel St.’ is always the same. Nothing’s changing, but the speaker remembers when everything came through that same old street. The track moves with such aggression not found before in the album, it’s nearly disorienting. The electronic alarms work against the surging guitars and drums. It feels as though the street is splitting under our feet, the pipes bursting as the speaker screams. ‘You don’t remember,’ what is there to remember? He can’t tell us. But, ‘he’s free,’ now, let him go. Across from us on the broken street, the speaker postures and calls to us. Almost as a realization he utters it. ‘Now, I’m free.’ Are you?
No. The song of the matrix is the same, the walls remain. The speaker walks on a treadmill. He cries about that song. He’s heard it for so long. Like zombies, the people lurch around the speaker as he walks. He can’t go forward; the treadmill drags him back. The horns wail into the cavities of the matrix. ‘Global Groove,’ is a groove so global, perhaps it's ironic the speaker has given up on its redundancy.
But, through it all, if the speaker can not change the world around him, then he’ll leave its echoing walls with an anthem of his distaste. ‘Pamphlets’ is the tale of the world’s continued efforts to content this discontented man. Oh, they say everything’s there for me, the speaker cries once more, but it’s all so superficial, just like this place, these clear walls, these unchanging pastures. But, that wasn’t the point of this digital soundscape. It wasn’t some escapist fantasy. The matrix is a crude recognition of the entrapping in which the speaker finds himself. But, we’re right there too. Trapped. Up and down, the sounds wail, our minds soar, our bodies crash.
Squid is a tad eccentric. But, they understand their own thoughts. If I felt anything at all during ‘Bright Green Fields,’ it was a sense of direction and control. Squid’s ambition is clear. It nearly rips their debut to pieces. But, their vision is clear. This messy, distorted matrix of a suffocating reality. I felt it, though. Anyone can. Human suffering is universal, and sound is its greatest medium.