Brighton post-punk five-piece, Squid, have generated considerable buzz over the last year, signing with Dan Carey’s label-of-the-minute Speedy Wunderground, impressing at SXSW and packing out tents at Glastonbury (complete with fans in papier-maché costumes). Their latest EP, the Carey-produced Town Centre, is a whirl of motorik rhythms and funk-punk weirdness that gobbles up everything from Neu! to Beefheart to Talking Heads and, er, XTC, and spits out a wonky pop sound that is entirely their own.
Tonight, they teeter along the edge of the SWG3 main room stage in a tangled line, threaded around the cloaked setup of tonight’s headliners Metronomy, in a mass of limbs and wire and percussion. Drummer/singer Ollie Judge leads the proceedings, his scrappy David Byrne yelp punctuating the racket. “You don’t even know my name!” he squawks over The Cleaner, a slice of twitching angular funk that snaps the audience to attention. Similar lyrical malaise is reflected on neurotic slow-build The Dial, with the band’s increasingly desperate pleas for change offset by creeping basslines and ticking percussion. Their grab-bag approach to genre could come off as ironic in less capable hands, but refreshingly, Squid are never smirking. As Squid howl and yell their way through the taut six-song set, their energy proves to be infectious: implausible mosh pits swirl. By the time the jazzy Houseplants arrives to bookend the first half of the night, the cavernous warehouse is buzzing with nervous energy. Like their slippery namesake, Squid are hard to pin down, taking in disparate influences and twisting them into something brilliantly strange.
The blue-and-white boiler suit uniforms that tonight’s headliners Metronomy have opted to don clue us in to the sleeker approach they favour. Opening with the understated Lately from their sixth album, this year’s Metronomy Forever – a sprawling 17-track sketchbook of tongue-in-cheek bops – project founder Joe Mount’s quiet confidence is palpable as the five-piece emerge, striding onto the stage amidst the results of a cheerfully over-deployed smoke machine. Bassist Gbenga Adelekan formally kicks things off with the iconic thump of The Bay, leading us into a set that errs on the side of caution, leaning heavily on 2011’s imperial phase record The English Riviera, with no less than four of its tracks given an outing in the first hour. Metronomy are enormously likable tonight, flatly refusing to take themselves seriously. Keyboardist Oscar Cash, now sporting a platinum mullet, dad-dances his way around the right of the stage while earnestly punching the air, with Mount at one point making crooning whale noises as the band cajole the audience into recreating “the ambience of nature”. There are cheap thrills reminiscent of the oversized light-up blimps worn by the band on their 2011 tour here too – during a freakout interlude, the two keyboard rigs segway together across the stage for an impromptu DJ battle.
If Metronomy occasionally seem a little boxed-in by the constraints of their hit-heavy set, the night takes off in these weird meandering middle parts between songs. Love Letters highlight I’m Aquarius is stripped back to its core, adding an ominous feel to its Motown-style “Shoop-doop-doop-ahs”, and this year’s Salted Caramel Ice Cream is received with the kind of fervour normally reserved for older fare, with winter warm coats shrugged off as Mount sighs “She’s bubbling like the water in my kettle/ She’s the sting in a nettle” over glass-cut synths. The Look receives its customary (and deserved) chant-along ahead of the wickedly excruciating Sex Emoji in the closing spot, before an stripped-back encore rendition of Upset My Girlfriend capped by old favourite Radio Ladio brings the house down.
In the nearly twenty years since Metronomy’s inception, Mount has grown exponentially in confidence and showmanship, a metamorphosis as unlikely as it is slickly convincing. Tonight is a glittering victory lap that leaves no doubt that, at least in this audience’s hearts, Metronomy really are “Forever”.