Title: Bright Green Field
Artist: Squid
Label: Warp
Genre: Post Punk / Art Rock
Released: 07 May 2021

Tracklist

1. Resolution Square
2. G.S.K.
3. Narrator
4. Boy Racers
5. Paddling
6. Documentary Filmmaker
7. 2010
8. The Flyover
9. Peel St.
10. Global Groove
11. Pamphlets

SQUID

Bright Green Field

"I'll play my part"

There’s a distinct music scene that’s been brewing in London over the last few years; creeping in towards the end of the 2010s, and now hitting full stride with the turn of this new decade. A group of bands hailing from The Windmill Pub in Brixton have slowly started to emerge as the founders of a new movement in British Post-Punk, forming a closely knit collective with a driving motivation to push each other to reach their very best. It’s a pretty exciting time, with many of these groups only just delivering their opening statements in what could possibly be an extremely important new period for British rock music. This year alone, we’ve heard the fantastic debut from Black Country, New Road, as well as the sophomore effort from Black Midi, both of which are some of the best albums of the decade so far. And now, amongst various other Windmill releases to come out this year (Don’t miss out on Shame or Famous’ excellent new records), the highly anticipated debut album from Squid; “Bright Green Field”, has arrived. And alongside Black Midi’s “Cavalcade”, and Black Country, New Road’s “For the First Time”, it completes 2021’s Holy Windmill Trilogy.

Unlike these other bands, I hadn’t heard great deal from Squid until earlier this year, when I first listened to the track ‘Narrator’. But upon that first listen, I was instantly hooked. Like many of these other bands that are slowly emerging from the Windmill scene at the moment, Squid are a group that manage to sound years ahead of their actual age. They’re a young band; releasing their debut EP only two years ago, but the level of proficiency that they display in ‘Narrator’ alone, makes them sound as though they’ve been composing together for a decade or more. ‘Narrator’ is a particularly striking track from them, and an interesting choice for the leading single of “Bright Green Field”, due to its absolutely massive 8-and-a-half-minute runtime. And it’s clearly an intentional move from the band to have done this. ‘Narrator’ is meant to be an eyebrow-raiser from the group; something that will turn heads, with its multiple sections, twists and turns, and its breathtaking conclusion that spans almost half of its length. And Squid have succeeded tremendously at this. This song is genuinely flooring, and it’s a perfect introduction to the band if you haven’t heard of them like I hadn’t.

Understandably, I was desperate to hear more from Squid, after the seemingly lighting-in-a-bottle perfection of ‘Narrator’. However, listening to their back-catalogue only indicated that this wasn’t a fluke at all. The band are simply consistently incredible at what they do. Whether it’s from the endlessly impressive ‘The Cleaner’, or the wonderfully manic ‘Houseplants’, hearing their development since 2019 confirms that Squid have the potential to become one of the best artists of their generation. And after an excruciatingly long wait over the last few months, “Bright Green Field’s” arrival has only come to prove that even further.

This is one of the most colourful releases to come out of 2021 so far. Much of that comes down to the intricacy and variety of the music, but perhaps the biggest contributing factor to this is the fantastic vocals on display from Ollie Judge. If there’s one thing that each of the major Windmill bands have in common at the moment, it’s that they’re all spearheaded by fantastically charismatic vocalists. Black Country, New Road features Isaac Wood’s intimate and nervous energy as the driving force of the band’s music; Black Midi has the ever-esoteric Geordie Greep leading them in whichever direction the group see fit; Shame is fronted perfectly by the commanding presence of Charlie Steen; and Squid’s very own drummer, Ollie Judge, directs the band both rhythmically and vocally. Like these other frontmen, he’s an unconventional vocalist, often sounding crazed and nervous. However, it’s this distinct flavour that he adds to the music which makes it so interesting. A sense of urgency permeates throughout “Bright Green Field”, as if the character Ollie is embodying is constantly attempting to run from some unspecified threat. And the album’s music, although delivering some moments of down-time, further reflects this.

‘G.S.K’ kicks the record off with a vaguely eerie instrumental. It’s a claustrophobic sound with some nervous pacing that sets the scene of the album; one engraved in anxiety, where the only order to be found is through the plodding rhythm of the drums. The lyrics depict dystopian London, with the narrator commenting on corporate domination as he struggles to get by from day to day, wondering whether he can even afford a warm meal for dinner. This anxiety is exacerbated by the intrusive thought that his urgency might be to his detriment, with the song casting an image of a car crash caused by his impatience to get to where he needs to go. It’s a pretty grim start to the album, which is prefaced by the equally haunting ‘Resolution Square’; a strange introduction track to the record which establishes a clear sense of uneasiness from its opening seconds.

From here, while ‘Narrator’ sounds more upbeat than ‘G.S.K’, it’s every bit as engrained in the same anxious energy. It’s told through the perspective of someone attempting to dissociate themselves from the pressures of reality, describing themselves as their own narrator who is content to play their own part in a fantasy that they’ve constructed. As I mentioned previously, this track is absolutely stunning. It’s easily the centrepiece of the album, and one of the best songs of the entire decade so far, with a second half that defies any possible expectations of the band. While the first section of the track follows a relatively normal sound for the group, taking inspiration from the likes of Talking Heads and Gang of Four, it then takes a complete left turn. Rather than continuing along this path, it decides to build into a seemingly endless crescendo, with Ollie continuously and frantically exclaiming the words “I’ll play mine”, before the track erupts into an incredible and cathartic finale. The excellent production from Dan Carey is demonstrated at its fullest during sections such as this throughout the album; harnessing a sound of sheer chaos and making it all the more terrifying in its clarity.

‘Boy Racers’ somehow picks up the debris left behind from ‘Narrator’ and throws the record straight back into its forward trajectory. Once again, the first half of this track follows a fairly standard post-punk sound, while the second half completely obliterates any attempt to label the band under a specific genre. And while I don’t think it works quite as well in this particular circumstance, with the track’s ambient conclusion feeling more like a weird, robotic interlude than a proper ending to the song, it’s still an interesting and commendable enough direction for the band to have taken it. And although the momentum of the album feels slightly lost here, it’s recovered in spades with the fantastic, catchy ‘Paddling’.

‘Paddling’ was one of the leading singles for the album, and remains among my favourite on the record. It’s definitely the most accessible moment on here, but it doesn’t compromise the band’s character in the process. The chorus is ridiculously catchy, following a rhythmic chant which is by far the lightest sounding moment on “Bright Green Field”, while still maintaining the overbearing sense of unease that persists throughout the album within its lyrics.

From here, the album continues into its middle section, which unfortunately feels like a slight dip in quality after just how consistent “Bright Green Field’s” first half was. ‘Documentary Filmmaker’ and ‘2010’ are still solid tracks, which demonstrate Squid’s ability to explore more minimal sounds, however they struggle to reach the same calibre of songs such as ‘Narrator’ and ‘Paddling’. It’s not enough to derail the album, but these tracks leave the central moments of “Bright Green Field” feeling fairly mild, rather than having the band playing to their strengths. Despite this, there’s still some great manipulation of tension and release throughout these songs, especially in ‘2010’, which features a sombre, mournful introduction, full of overlapping vocals and descending guitar riffs, which is then contrasted by cacophonous outbursts of noise. It’s a different vibe to the rest of the album, and although the track is among “Bright Green Field’s” weaker moments, it’s interesting to see the band dip their toe into some different styles and moods. Thankfully though, after another strange, but brief interlude, the album is back on track with the fantastic change of pace: ‘Peel St.’.

‘Peel St.’ is an absolutely exhilarating return to tempo for the album, leaning heavily into a looped synthesizer line, with the band riffing on top to create a strange, frenetic dance track at a breakneck pace. The electronic aspects of the song make it really stand out in the track-list, and it’s quickly become one of my favourite moments on the album, with echoes of Kraftwerk and LCD Soundsystem. Coupled with Ollie’s frenzied energy, it also manages to lead the album perfectly into its final moments, with the tense, penultimate ‘Global Groove’, and its counterpart, the brilliant closing track ‘Pamphlets’.

‘Global Groove’ is a hair-raising moment on the album. Its sparce, yet effective, with the intro to the song being led only by a singular, pulsating drum beat, backed with some ominous ambience. It’s an extremely chilling song, and Ollie delivers a great performance here, but it feels as though it was designed specifically to set the stage for the final track, ‘Pamphlets’. And although it does a great job of this, ‘Pamphlets’ also completely overshadows it, stealing the show from the entire second half of “Bright Green Field”. ‘Pamphlets’ is the second track on the album to surpass 8 minutes, and Squid prove once again that they know exactly how to use that time. It isn’t as multifaceted as ‘Narrator’, but it’s the perfect conclusion to the album which more than makes up “Bright Green Field’s” lethargic middle section. It’s commanding in tone, yet the lyrics once again reflect a character that is entrenched in anxiety and frustration with the world. Ollie screams the words “I Don’t Go Outside” over and over again, while commenting on the constant barrage of advertisement and propaganda that he’s fed day after day. By the end of the song, his efforts to escape this are seen as completely futile, with pamphlets filling his entire house and invading the only remaining sense of security he had left. Like ‘Narrator’, it’s a perfectly constructed long track, and rounds out the album’s themes of claustrophobia and unease really well.

“Bright Green Field” isn’t quite as tightly packed as “For the First Time” or “Cavalcade”, and for this reason it begins to sag towards its middle section. But when Squid are at their best on this album, they strike gold. There are a number of tracks on here that could easily be placed among the top songs of the year, and the decade so far, such as ‘Narrator, ‘Paddling’, ‘G.S.K’, ‘Pamphlets’, and ‘Peel St.’. And while some of the other songs on here didn’t blow me away quite as much, they’re still solid parts of what adds up to be a fantastic debut album. Squid are only just getting started with “Bright Green Field”, and I have no doubt that they’re still yet to reach their peak, which makes it all the more exciting to think of what they could be planning next. And as one of the most promising bands to emerge over the last few years, I personally can’t wait to see what they have in store for the 2020s.

"Pamphlets through my door and pamphlets on my floor
Open wide, we've got everything, everything that you like"

Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 01/07/2021
8.5/10
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Comments

tamara

23/7/21, 9:43 am

such a wonderful, passionate review 🤍

tamara :))

15/7/21, 8:01 am

so proud of u, such a great and succinct review xo

tamara

15/7/21, 7:57 am

incredible review!!!

tamara!

9/7/21, 11:54 am

what an incredible review!! one of my favourites of the year 🥰💓

tamara

5/7/21, 2:29 am

another wonderful review!!! x

tamara

3/7/21, 7:03 am

another great review from my favourite music reviewer🤍🤍🤍

Lindsay

3/7/21, 6:48 am

YEEESSSS I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on My Love Is Cool, one of my faves album EVER

Taylah

3/7/21, 6:46 am

One day I'm gonna have to listen to all these albums because of all these great reviews! Can't wait for a Hamilton or Frozen review...??? 👀👀👀 Maybe a cheeky Bo Burnham review????

Taylah

1/7/21, 6:42 am

YES!!! COMMENTS AND BACK!!!! HOW DID THIS SMART MAN DO IT???!!!

tamara😳

1/7/21, 6:40 am

yay!! comments are back!! love this review, and you!🤍