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Review: Squid’s Bright Green Field Channels the Soul-Crushing Mundanity of Modern Life

For all its significations and referents, the album never feels overburdened or contrived.

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Squid, Bright Green Field
Photo: Holly Whitaker

Out of the heterogenous smattering of post-punk bands to emerge from the U.K. as of late, Brighton’s Squid excels in balancing playfulness and drama, landing somewhere at the crossroads of Dry Cleaning’s cut-and-dry drollness and Black Midi’s noise-rock maximalism. Expanding on the post-Brexit disillusionment of their Krautrock-indebted hit “Houseplants,” Squid’s debut album, Bright Green Field, contrasts Wordsworthian pastoralism with the political realities of today’s England, that dystopic island in the grips of right-wing populism, class disparity, environmental degradation, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Against this chaotic backdrop, lead vocalist and percussionist Ollie Judge channels the soul-crushing mundanity of a 9-to-5 job in the spirit of absurdist pencil pushers like Franz Kafka and Fernando Pessoa. Gutting lines like “Legs still but the herd is in motion” and “Watch your favorite war on TV, just before you go to sleep” abound across the album’s 11 tracks.

For all its significations and referents, Bright Green Field never feels overburdened or contrived. Judge delivers his revelations with a frantic, improvisatory air, almost as if he’s speaking in tongues, and the band’s arrangements, unbeholden to any sort of traditional structure, churn and rattle like a train going off its tracks. Squid is leery of conventional song structures: “Boy Racers” melts into an otherworldly passage played on a rackett, a Medieval wind instrument, and “Resolution Square” was recorded by hanging a microphone from the ceiling and spinning it round a ring of guitar amps playing sounds from nature.

Originating as a quintet schooled in modal jazz, Squid’s transformation into post-punk disruptors is indicative of a band that relentlessly bucks against their limits. To hear them ply their craft on Bright Green Field, the album represents a crystallization of that impulse.

Label: Warp Release Date: May 7, 2021 Buy: Amazon

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