It is a difficult and anxious task to take on a second album of a band that has released the best debut album you heard in years. Bright Green Field by Squid was that, and also a much played and recommended album that became a champion for independent adventurous music and a good friend in one. Within a few days the band will be ready to release its successor, and I got the privilege to listen to it in advance and twist my brain into yoga poses to comprehend it.
Because sure, O Monolith is a difficult second album, but not in the regular sense. The difficulty lies with the listener this time, not so much with the band, who in fact seemed to have had a lot of fun and inspiration making it. It is a layer cake album, that you will need to spend much time with to fully digest, musically and lyrically. Nothing is ever what it seems, and once you think you got them pegged, they wriggle away like the squeaky little squids they named themselves to be.
If Bright Green Field‘s major appeal was Squid‘s fresh proggy take on uptempo post punk in the vein of Talking Heads and their contemporaries Black Midi and Black Country, New Road, O Monolith stretches up the progressive part and fully rips it open, guts spilling noisily. There is a whole new range in dynamics at work here too, with less uptempo dancing and more emphasis on building up tension into what Can would call “Godzillas”. Just listen to the postmodern classical bombast of album closer If You Had Seen The Bull’s Swimming Attempts You Would Have Stayed Away and note that the real leap Squid took here is not even in that song title…
An intricate work, and an album your ears need to grow accustomed to, but a lovely rich one too once it fully opened itself up to you. As a big fan of the first album you might need to step over the lack of hooks and danceable tunes, but O Monolith will reward your patience in the end.
The impression that stays a few listens into O Monolith is of a band of explorers that are free to go wherever the flow might take them. Equipped with impressive musical chops and unlimited creative possibilities they had eight adventures in Peter Gabriel‘s Real World studio. The result is as eclectic and diverse as an album by human musicians as outstanding and singular like Squid might ever get.
But let’s hold off on a final conclusion for now, because I for one am not nearly finished with this monolith quite yet…
When I started this blog three years ago I had little expectations of what it would grow into. It was just something to occupy my mind with during the pandemic dread. So when I was able to actually fire a couple of questions at one of my absolute favorite contemporary artists Squid this month I was pretty damn pleased with myself. It’s a personal highlight of an already pretty great year in new music. Guitarist Anton Pearson did the answering to my questioning.
Hi guys, how have you been since the release of Bright Green Field?
We’ve been good… we’ve been writing lots of new music, done loads of shows, travelled to a bunch of countries we’ve never been to before. Most of us have moved house at least once since then. So yeah, a busy time.
It’s been a very successful album, which raises the level of anticipation towards the “difficult second album”…How big of a part has that played in writing and recording O Monolith?
We tried not to consider it too much. We were really pleased and surprised how much people seemed to like BGF (some people probably hated it too) but we weren’t really interested in making music in reaction to public feedback, we’d probably end up with something pretty awful if we did that – 5 opinions is enough to juggle already. We’ve just kept making music we find exciting and challenging to make.
Where do you live, and how does it affect your musicianship in any way?
Right now I’m living in Brighton, Ollie’s in Bristol and Arthur, Louis and Laurie are in London. They’ve all got distinct music cultures and scenes and they’ve all been important cities to us in different ways. Brighton got a bunch of good small venues, without them we never would’ve got started as a band. Some of my favourites are the Hope and Ruin, The ACCA and The Rose Hill.
What does an ordinary day look like for you?
I’m constantly yo-yoing between Brighton and London these days. I usually get the train up and meet the other squids at a rehearsal space at 10/11am and work until about 5pm and get the very busy train back again. We haven’t been touring much recently and I’m feeling very lucky to be able to spend most days writing or rehearsing with those lovely fellas.
If I have a day at home I like playing football and going for walks.
Can you tell us about some of your contemporary heroes?
Hmm tricky question. Just thinking about what I’ve been listening to today – Richard Dawson and Laurie Anderson are big legends in my eyes. Dunno I’d call them heroes though, reckon they’d be rubbish at fighting crime.
Outside of music Kyogo Furuhashi is one of them for sure.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when it comes to the lyrics?
I don’t think there’s any set rules about where we draw lyrical inspiration from, its whatever really. To keep things impulsive and raw to a certain degree, it’s important that we don’t worry too much about things making perfect sense. But quite often we get inspired by things we’ve read or seen or overheard people say, then let our imaginations mull it over over a bit and come up with something new with it. We usually write the music first and the lyrical ideas feed off that. Ollie writes most of the lyrics for Squid, he’s a talented boy.
What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after reading this interview?
I’ve recently moved somewhere with a garden for the first time in my adult life and I built a pond a few months ago. It’s been great watching that come to life – I’d recommend doing that if you’re able to – it’s great for your local wildlife and easy to do.