A big splash is more memorable than a graceful dive.
After a few well-received singles, and 2019’s Town Centre EP, UK post-punk band Squid aimed to do exactly that with their debut full-length album Bright Green Field.
Speedy Wunderground mastermind Daniel Carey returned as producer and, with the album’s lead-off stomper “G.S.K,” it seems as though they intend on finishing what they started in 2019.
Drummer and singer Ollie Judge barks out his snide attacks on the British pharma company like an agitated Hugh Cornwell while the band pushes and pulls their herky-jerky rhythms towards the fringes.
While there is no shortage of post-punk miscreants coming out of the UK right now, if there is a band that Squid shares a musical kinship it’s the mischievous Montreal dance-punk band Pottery. Both bands stretch out their ideas in an unsettling-hall-of-mirrors fashion. But while Pottery focuses on getting the party started with their Zappa-meets-Gang of Four rhythms, Squid flourish when they trade in the whimsy for dread.
Bright Green Field’s mutating songs make the listener feel like a snowball they gleefully rolled down a hill turned into a faster moving boulder hurtling towards a sleepy village below.
Musical movements have the potential to splinter out in unexpected directions as they combine elements of post-punk, krautrock, funk and even free jazz like in “Narrator.” The song starts as an infectious dance track and shifts into a slow build halfway through with Judge repeating the line “I’ll play mine” into an urgent throat clearing yell. You can practically feel a blood vessel pop in his eye as he hands over vocal duties to guest Martha Skye Murphy.
What stops Bright Green Field from being a debut for the ages is that there are moments of excess that bog the record down. One of the main offenders is the nearly three minute synth outro of the otherwise tight and aggressive track “Boy Racer.” While I’m sure it is intended to bring some textural sauce into the mix, the end product sounds like Garth Hudson’s intro to “Chest Fever” on the Last Waltz if he was having a bad acid trip — and not in a good way.
Running nearly one hour, It’s a shame there are numerous moments like this on the record. I’m not sure if songs like the truly plodding five-minute “Documentary Filmmaker” or the horn interlude “The Flyover” add much when the band is able to dismantle a building and piece it together brick by brick with complex songs like “2010” and “Peel Street.”
While it’s easy to appreciate the band taking their time, many of the songs on the album could benefit from a generous amount of trimming.
Squid save their best two songs for last however with the moody horn laden “Global Groove” and the previously released closer “Pamphlets.” The two are connected narratively: the former deals with desentization and the ladder lays out the band’s case for never going outside again.
Despite the excessive musical moments, Bright Green Field provides Squid with a strong, stable foundation for the young band to propel itself from with future releases.
Prerequisites: The Stranglers Rattus’ Norvegicus and Squid’s Town Centre EP
Essential Tracks: “G.S.K,” “Pamphlets,” and “Global Groove”