Bright Green Field
2021 • ALTERNATIVE/ROCK • WARP
Squid’s debut record, Bright Green Field, shows that the British band has a lot of potential, delivering symbolic lyrics alongside bold sounds.
English band Squid’s debut album, Bright Green Field, is named after a story by avant-garde writer Anna Kavan. The tale is a surrealist story about grass that the narrator cannot escape wherever she goes. While the field confronts the unnamed narrator on her travels, the grass is luminous green and grows at a supernatural rate, and chained humans cut the grass as a metaphor for a bigger meaning. In Squid’s first album, which was recorded during the quarantine and features Black Country, New Road’s For the First Time producer Dan Carey, the band shows symbolic lyrics alongside a bold sound.
“This album has created an imaginary cityscape. The tracks illustrate the places, events, and architecture that exist within it,” Ollie Judge, Squid’s lead vocalist, told NME about the record. “Previous projects were playful and concerned with characters, whereas this project is darker and more concerned with place.” Indeed, Bright Green Field is imagery, painting scenarios and atmospheres, both from the past and future, with the help of daring and experimental sound alongside lyrics that look like folk legends — which, some of them, were written back to the early 2010s. Although longer than it should, with shallow moments, and featuring unnecessary passages, the album still manages to achieve a baseline of a great album, showing the artist on its best and most powerful phase of catharsis.
Bright Green Field’s best song is “G.S.K.,” referring to GlaxoSmithKline, a British pharmaceutical company. On the track, the Brighton boys talk about several social criticisms, from substance dependence to issues of capitalism. Judge starts, “As the sun sets on the GlaxoKline/Well, it’s the only way that I can tell the time,” and continues later, “On Concrete Island, I wave at the businessman/On Concrete Island, well, I hope my dinner is warm,” creating a relation between island the Alcatraz prison. Meanwhile, horns, strings, and synthesizers create detailed instrumentation to support Ollie’s vocals, which, in their turn, are strong and marry pretty well the whole vocal work. Furthermore, the track is also short, direct to the point, and fluid, making itself the best model that the other tracks should have followed. Unfortunately, not all the tracks do it.
Usually, in post-rock and post-punk albums, the longest tracks are the best ones, mainly because they are the most immersive, atmospheric, and deepest songs on their respective works. However, in Bright Green Field, that does not happen. Even though “Narrator,” “Boy Racers,” and “Pamphlets” have several qualities, they are kinda disappointing. While the first one features a great progression, it also has vocals from Martha Skye Murphy, which looks like some generic synthetic female voice used on some cheap electronic song from the late 2010s, and has a shallow climax that doesn’t make sense with the whole tension that they were building through the track, “Boy Racers,” has two different phases — and both of them are great — but seems confused in its own lyrics. Finally, “Pamphlets” closes the record but doesn’t deliver something that goes further than everything that, at this point, you have heard.
Other songs on Bright Green Field don’t have these same problems. Beyond “G.S.K.,” “2010” appears as one the strongest on the record. Featuring a nice arrangement of wind instruments, the track also has well-done lyrics with different structures based on alternating vocal states. Meanwhile “Peel St.” contrasts with “Global Groove,” as the first one has weird computer synthetics, and the second counts on what appears to be ancient war horns. Ironically, “Paddling” is the union of the two tracks, showing a modern yet mystical sound. Other than that, this one also is the most dynamic one, presenting the feeling of something that has depth, and has a pretty nice and catchy bridge.
On other hand, there are some bad or rather unnecessary tracks on Bright Green Field. The opener, “Resolution Square,” for example, doesn’t add anything to the final result of the record. In the same way, “The Flyover,” doesn’t have anything bad about it, but doesn’t have a big purpose here. But, thankfully, this doesn’t change the fact that the Squid’s debut showed that the British band has a lot, a lot of potential. When Judge said to NME that “the emotional depth of the music has deepened,” he wasn’t lying.