Single Review: Squid – Narrator (Warp)

Squid have been close to my heart for a while. They released my favourite EP of 2019. ‘Town Centre’, a collection of arty post punk, complete with funk leaden grooves and outlandish vocals. And no, not just middle of the road post punk. Post punk that gets stirring comparisons to The Talking Heads and XTC after one Radio 1 airing. While any other band could dream of this, Squid have ironically gone cold turkey to the idea. Though that’s not too much of a surprise. In fact it’s one of the things I admire so much in Squid. They have an experimental streak that they threaten at sadistically, whether it’s in throwing a minimal drone song out of place on their EP, or dropping a leftfield electronic single last year.

Here they stop threatening. They drop everything but risk, feeding their listener their hardest pill to swallow yet. And I mean here comes the aeroplane style, not caring one bit if their audience chokes in the process. They further this by announcing a debut album with no old material. A few days ago, lead singer Ollie Judge sneered to DIY magazine. “I hate it when bands put tracks on albums that have been recorded for ages beforehand – it’s cheating” , “We’ve gone for the route that might alienate some people…”. He wasn’t lying.

Lyrically inspired by the 2019 film ‘A Long Day’s Journey Into A Night’, the listener is already to know they’re in for something mad. Lyrically depicting unreliable narratives, with the idea that one can’t judge another based off what someone says, because as a species we’re all just building onto our ego with our words (that’s a mouthful to write), ‘Narrator’ is nothing short of brilliant. Sure, lyrically it’s fascinating, but there’s even more ear candy in the way they go about presenting it. There’s a noteworthy feature from Martha Skye Murphy, who delivers these unusual soft spoken passages in submission, as if she knows anything louder than a whisper wont be heard due to her male companions prestige. That of Judge, who is shrieking over her. It’s the musical embodiment of being trapped in an abusive relationship, where ones reputation can be destroyed by a few words. By the second leg of the track, she has mutated into an animal, as if finally breaking free. The band loose their shit while Murphy line for line screams in high pitched agony. The only time i’ve heard anything remotely similar is on Pink Floyd’s ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’, and that strange youtube video called ‘Crazy Woman Making Pig Noises’ (if that counts). It’s pretty original, even by 2021 standards.

Sonically Squid have moved forward. Testing their listeners patience with off kilter guitar riffs, synths that sound like phone interference and sections of the group in unision delivering atonal musical door slams. Judge’s vocal delivery is shrill. Oscillating still yes, but this time not in a playful way, just unhinged. Like a madman broken loose from solitary confinement (likely Judge’s real life situation too. He wrote the album in a windowless barn).

This will be getting repeated listens from this side. It should be by you too. Even if off putting at first. This is some of the most inventive music out there right now, solidifying (even more so) that 2021 will be a stellar year for music.

Post script: Make sure to watch the music video if you don’t suffer from migraines. I usually hate the idea of music videos, but this one is spectacular. It’s like going on google maps during a bad acid trip and finding the members of Squid surrounding you wherever you go.

Squid’s debut album ‘Bright Green Field’ (ambitiously just under an hour in length!) can be pre ordered here: https://brightgreenfield.squidband.uk/