The five members of squid stand in a diagonal line against a yellow background. They are each dressed in black trousers, with an assortment of coloured t shirts.
Credit: NME

Review: Squid @ SWG3

By Fred Bruce

The Brighton five-piece electrify SWG3 with their uniquely angular brand of post-punk guitar rock.

A sea of mullets and skinheads greeted the triumphant Squid as they played their first Scottish date since the release of their debut full-length album, Bright Green Field. Their debut dropped earlier this year via Warp Records, shooting the band to the forefront of the UK’s already electrifying post-punk scene, giving them a buzz that radiated throughout the heaving crowd at SWG3.

For much of the audience, this was a much-anticipated return to live music after an 18-month hiatus. Capitalising on this visceral, pent-up energy was the night’s opening act – Glasgow’s own Kaputt. Armed with saxophones and violins, the six-piece whipped the already-riled crowd into a frenzy with their eclectic brand of jazz-influenced punk. The raucous instrumentals formed an incredibly technical sonic wall, over which vocalist Cal Donnelley delivered lyrics with a passion and driving energy that more than made up for their incomprehensibility. Moments of Kaputt’s set were reminiscent of black midi’s Cavalcade or even parts of Black Country; New Road’s For the First Time, but by the time you’d noticed a similarity, the band had already launched into an exciting new passage.

A sudden exodus from the bar queue signalled Squid’s appearance on stage. Led by drummer-vocalist Ollie Judge, the band’s unassuming aesthetics belie the palpably intense sound they have become synonymous with. This disconnect mends itself as the set progresses, as the enormous passion becomes increasingly visible across each member of the band, especially during some of the more climatic anthems.

Few bands can build suspense as well as Squid, and fewer still have pay-offs that are quite so cathartic. One of the gig’s highlights, the monster Narrator, has an eight-minute runtime that is almost entirely build-up. The crowd is practically frothing when the band finally burst into the maniacal, white-knuckle ending, and the release of energy is borderline spiritual.

One of the band’s strengths is their ability to merge catchy, anthemic rock with angular, dystopian experimentation. On Bright Green Field especially, the band toed with concepts significantly more “out there” than their previous material, and hearing them brought to life was an incredible experience. The back-half of Boy Racers – an extensive wall of harsh dark synths and metallic vocals – was made all the more visceral by Ollie’s unbridled hunger for the music. Pacing back and forth the stage, he struck the drumkit with a ferocious intensity that seemed just barely contained. 

Pamphlets, another multi-phased beast of a track, closed out the night’s set in a fittingly aggressive style. The final climax was perhaps the most exhilarating of the whole show, with the distorted guitars and Ollie’s shrieked vocals culminating in a wave of sound that threatened to drown the whole venue. Days later, I still find myself thinking about the excitement Squid brought, not just to the SWG3, but to the British music scene in general. Where the band goes next is anyone’s guess, but not a single member of that night’s audience would dare to miss it.


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