With Bright Green Field, Squid wipe the slate clean, destroying any preconception of them as a ‘post-punk’ band, before shattering the slate entirely to create an uncompromising mosaic of influences and exciting innovations.
The Brighton five-piece grew their popularity through early singles like ‘Houseplants’, and ‘The Cleaner’, which deservedly put them on a pedestal as the ‘next great British punk band’. Full of riotous energy and non-sensical lyrics their sound was sublimely executed yet definitely familiar. It would have been easy for the band to continue riding high with that successful formula but Squid were having none of it.
The band were making a clear statement of creative freedom when they opted to sign with Warp Records for their debut (more famous for electronic heavy weights like Aphex Twin, Yves Tumor and Hudson Mohawke), rather than the plethora of ‘indie’ labels who must have come-a-knocking. Equally, releasing the eight and half minute lead single Narrator’ (with Martha Skye Murphy) in January, where vocalist Ollie Judge screams, “I am my own narrator”, is not exactly a subtle rejection to being limited or pigeon-holed by genre.
“It had to speak for itself as a whole,” says member Arthur Leadbetter of the album. “To do that, we couldn’t include songs of the past. They’ve had their life and we’ve moved on”. This unwillingness to play by any predetermined rules is thematic of Bright Green Field which indulges itself with contradictions and juxtapositions. For an album which sounds distinctly urban (in the metropolitan sense), even the title must be a playful nod towards the band’s love for a paradox.
“This album has created an imaginary cityscape,” says Judge. “The tracks illustrate the places, events and architecture that exist within it”. Tracks like ‘Peel St.’ and ‘Boy Racers’ certainly bring that industrial element while others like ‘Documentary Filmmaker’ and ‘The Flyover’ offer a momentary jazz-influenced breather, a green space in an otherwise concrete jungle.
“Although this city is not a real place and exists in the imaginary and cyber spheres, it borrows clear characteristics from the real world we live in,” Judge adds. These real world references are clear from the lyrics in album closer ‘Pamphlets‘ where the band take aim at right-wing letterbox propaganda.
It’s not surprising to read from the press sheet that Squid had a shared ‘ideas and influences folder’ full of literary references when making this album. The album truly does play out like a dystopian novel, while not losing that sense of fun as though its creative process was more like one awe-inspiring Sims City creation as oppose to a written artefact.
Despite ideas and inspirations being far reaching, the album succeeds, in fact it flourishes, together as a unit, while remaining jagged enough to cut yourself the second you think you’ve predicted its next step.
“The thing was getting the balance right between eclecticism and cohesion. It’s a really varied record but the strongest albums have a really clear sense of identity and should feel like one piece of art, and I think we’ve done that,” says Judge. And you’d be hard-pressed to find any evidence to contradict him.
Bright Green Field: 07 May 2021 – Warp Records. Available to buy now.