Squid – Bright Green Field
Released May 7th, 2021 on Warp Records
There’s something going on in Britain right now, or it’s been happening for a few years and everyone else is just catching up now. Either way, NPR put out an article recently talking about what they’ve decided to refer to as “the post-Brexit New Wave” of post-punk bands. It’s true that there are a lot of bands coming out of that blighted, uncertain place with similar sounds and aesthetics: Black Midi, Dry Cleaning, Black Country, New Roads, Yard Act, Fontaines D.C., some others. A lot of it blends early-80s post-punk sounds with 90’s-era post-rock and layers disaffected, detached flat vocal deliveries over this. That is to say, it’s a bunch of artists who really got into Slint and the Fall and decided to make bands around this binary love. Squid’s debut record Bright Green Field is the latest entry in this don’t-call-it-a-movement, and (with deep apologies to Black Midi) it might be the best of the lot thus far.
There are a lot of bands listed as part of this ‘scene’ that take their cues from a single kind of sound. Sleaford Mods are just the Fall stripped down to their barest essentials and filtered through a working class mindset. Shame sounds like post-punk by numbers. Black Country, New Roads are the ‘second-best Slint tribute band’. Squid, meanwhile, has no obvious origin point. There are a lot of different touchstones, each of them balancing against each other to create chaos that constantly threatens to collapse but never quite does. The band, led by drummer-shouter Ollie Judge, delivers grooves built out of broken pieces of jazz, funk, and post-rock, fit together haphazardly, jagged peak to razor-rough valley. It’s a brute-force approach to the act of making music but it has an odd delicacy about it; there are moments where your feet leave the floor (or the other way around, perhaps) and you are left floating in the void, waiting for the next storm of noise and passion to bring you slamming back into the Earth. It’s the same sort of playful tug-and-go dynamics that early Smashing Pumpkins used to great effect, although Squid’s approach is infinitely more subtle than the fabled Pumpkins Reset.
Regardless of the coherence of this scene or the length of time it’ll stick around, I feel as though Bright Green Field will be one of the key albums of the era, a touchstone for people who look back 20 years from now and start digging around in the detritus for inspiration, much like how Hex Induction Hours or Spiderland provide the impetus for the bands who are gathering en masse to make beautiful noise today.