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Squid: Bright Green Field

There isn’t anything new under the sun — especially in rock music. Guitars can only take us so far, and for quite a long time, the only hope for even striving for new, creative uses of the instrument is to drag external forces into the mix. Whether you’re Link Wray or Ray Davies stabbing or slashing your amp speaker, or Sonic Youth stuffing screwdrivers between the strings and bridges of their instruments, or just My Bloody Valentine with an army of distortion pedals, the manipulation of sound have long been the only way to find new ground. As the years go on, that ability fades — not because people are less willing to cover new ground, but because, well, we’ve already covered most of it.

All of this is why Squid, and their intoxicating debut album, Bright Green Field, is such an exciting band. They demand comparison to other bands, but the ones your mind jumps to are ones that still don’t sound anything like this one, rendering you unable to describe them in a tangible way; I, personally, have taken to saying “They’re like if Fred Schneider of the B-52s took an extraordinary amount of hallucinogens and started an LCD Soundsystem-inspired dance-punk band.” For some bands, it isn’t an insult to be compared to other bands — sometimes, the only way you can explain what kind of band they are is to throw things at the wall to see what sticks.

Which is, honestly, fitting, as “see what sticks” feels like the prevailing wisdom within Bright Green Field — and it’s that kind of adventurousness that makes it such a compelling listen. The record is built on constantly-shifting earth and samples of bees and bells and guitars filtered through an array of amps and then picked up by an oscillating mic hanging from a ceiling fan. Horns burst and bloom only to fade into the darkness with the same implacable menace of something on 20 Jazz Funk Greats. It’s not quite dance-punk, it’s not quite industrial, it’s not really even “experimental” or “indie rock” or whatever filler label that people stick to bands like black midi or even Black Country, New Road (two members of which even appear here in a bleeding choir of obfuscation and noise). It sounds like it should be polarizing, but somehow, it sucks you in almost immediately.

After the quick intro “Resolution Square,” we’re given the opportunity to find our footing with the bizarre, infectious “G.S.K.,” one of the catchiest songs you’ll hear all year (have fun not singing “Speedin’ along, speedin’ along/ I go through the windshield! Speedin along, speedin’ along/ I hope my dinner is warm!” while you do dishes and your brain dissolves. But just three tracks in, the realities of Bright Green Field begin to reveal themselves. “Narrator” is a killer track that takes maybe 10 listens before you process the fact that it’s eight-and-a-half-minutes long. Then you get to the equally outstanding “Boy Racer,” which departs its form and wanders around in an acidic forest after just two minutes of its seven-minute runtime. This should be boring, but it’s natural enough that you can miss that you’re even still listening to the same song at a point. The album is 55 minutes long, but at no point does it ever actually make you feel like you’re listening to a near-hour of music. The time within that time feels extremely elastic, presenting a bizarre, Jeremy Bearimy-esque space that feels like it’s as long and infinite as a Kamasi Washington album, yet as short as a ‘90s post-hardcore band’s first EP. Nothing about Bright Green Field should really work, and it doesn’t really make sense how its mechanics work, but it demands countless listens — if only because you’re desperate to figure it out.

If this sounds unpleasant, do yourself a favor and throw that concern away. This music is weird, and it’s almost impossible to affix any kind of true genre label to it, but it’s a crackin’ good time throughout the whole record. There are a lot of moments that should repel you: the abstract, talky “Documentary Filmmaker”; the dense, motorik freakout that “Narrator” succumbs to for the latter two-thirds of the track; the “Dismemberment Plan does dance-punk, but make it a little bit prog for a minute” atmosphere of “Peel St.” The sounds within it aren’t ones that most people would even think to create, and the ways they created and captured those sounds are even more puzzling. Shouldn’t the menacing, messy “Global Groove,” at least be a limiting factor for some? But no: right up until the hypnotic and addicting finale of “Pamphlets,” Bright Green Field keeps you completely in its thrall.

Bright Green Field is a remarkable debut by Squid, and it’s impossible to not be excited to see where the band go from here. This record feels as fully-formed as you can get or a band this unabashedly strange and constantly shifting. It’s also one of the best albums of the year so far, sounding like (almost) nothing else released in this heady, troublesome year. Maybe Bright Green Field is the exact right kind of bizarre, nearly-hallucinogenic world we all need right now; after all, what’s better than existing in a world that sounds so different than the one we’re in? This alone may be why it feels so addicting. Do you feel a temptation to just hit the Play button again, once the final, soaring moments of “Pamphlets” subside? All you’re going to want is to go back there — and there’s no shame in succumbing to that temptation.

Like (almost) nothing you’ll hear this year, Bright Green Field is a remarkable and unabashedly strange debut for Squid, one that is as perplexing as it is addicting. The only thing more addicting is trying to describe them to your friends.
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