The English band’s nervy debut blazes through scraps of jazz, funk, krautrock, dub, and punk. More than a canonized style, it’s their level of control that sets them apart.
The word “island” is usually synonymous with “paradise”—someplace tropical and warm, skewered by beach umbrellas. We’re less likely to think of Alcatraz. But when English rock band Squid mention a “concrete island” in the first minutes of Bright Green Field, it’s closer to the infamous prison than a Sandals resort. The isle in “G.S.K.” is a dystopian slab ruled by Big Pharma, and the record’s opening scene, as shouted by drummer and vocalist Ollie Judge, confines us to this grim locale: “As the sun sets, on the Glaxo Klein/Well it’s the only way that I can tell the time,” he sings. On this barren rock, the British drug conglomerate is the towering center of daily life—so big, it acts like a sundial. “Island” never sounded so angry or claustrophobic.
Bright Green Field is packed with these moments of compression—lean phrases that steadily inflate into three-dimensional scenes. Driving their expansion are vigorous and detailed arrangements, music that rattles against Judge’s agitated lyrics until it erupts. A sickly undercurrent of strings propels his role as a white-collar drudge on “G.S.K.”; when he embarks on his evening commute, dreaming of the warm dinner that awaits, the music seems to pursue him. The horn section sounds like a fleet of motorbikes trying to run him off of the road.