Squid: Sardines Inside A Dream

Nathan Collins

A five-piece post-punk group hailing from Brighton, England, Squid are just now coming to discover their own potential. After having released the highly acclaimed and intriguingly conceptual ‘Bright Green Field’ in 2021, the roguish quintet returned last year with ‘O’ Monolith’, an LP which sees them move towards texture and dissonance as valuable instruments in their own right. February sees the band begin their North American tour, where —at least at the Rickshaw— their jaggedly abrasive dance-noise-punk is welcomed with open arms.

The venue is dingy in a sort of cultured way – the walls may be peeling in certain patches but each patch of damaged wallpaper constructs an atmosphere which invites a rough, exciting, punk energy to fill the room. Lest I forget this is a sold-out show, and looking around, I fail to see even one person without a tin of lager in their hands. Folk are gearing up.  After an opening act ‘Water From Your Eyes’ – a dance-punk group more closely influenced by Slint rather than LCD Soundsystem – has been and gone, the lights cut out and the words “SQUID” appear in a large old English font on the two white sheets which drape the left and right of the stage. The band grace the stage, and a modular synth begins its jittery symphony in isolation, and everybody in the room is locked in.

The band begin their set with ‘Swing (In A Dream)’, an ethereal and dreamy track which has everybody uniformly bobbing their heads along. As the track builds up into an explosive bass-led drop garnished with heavy lush pads, the bobbing has graduated to banging and Squid have successfully won our undivided attention in the first 5 minutes of their set. This strict focus persists through the next two tracks, ‘If You Had Seen the Bull’s Swimming Attempts You Would Have Stayed Away’ and ‘Undergrowth’.. The band then graces us with a new unreleased track, referred to as ‘Leccy Jam’ – a sort of ambient string-led modular track, it gels the new album material aptly with an upcoming pivot into a ‘classic hits’ section of the show. The marching bass of “G.S.K” is layered on top of the already powerful and pulsating vocal synth stabs and ambient drones, and we know we have entered into the second act of the show. No interval required.

Drummer/frontman Ollie then proceeds to rattle into the drum break from fan-favourite ‘The Cleaner’, taken from the band’s Town Centre EP released in 2019, and the crowd’s rowdy affinity has now burgeoned into a chaotic frenzy with everybody bouncing and jumping to their hearts content. It’s not quite moshing, but holds all the same sensation of playful violence. Like sardines on speed, the sold-out show is permeated with breathlessness and fixated adoration. Everybody remains jumping on their feet for a whole three song stretch - following “The Cleaner” is the idioteque-inspired ‘Broadcaster’ and then the tumultuously driven opus “Narrator” off of their ‘Bright Green Field’ album. The crowd never quite come down from this high, but as Squid rattle through more of their material concluding their set, such as “Paddling” and “The Blades”, I’m caught up with how everybody has this sort of shocked look on their face. As if everything that has been played, improvised, exclaimed, and shared by the band has exceeded all expectations. And frankly, I’m inclined to agree.

The band returns to the stage to play another new track released distributed as a single titled “Fugue (Bin Song)” and the crowd makes the most out of Squid’s infectious chaos - this is an opportunity that will not arrive again anytime soon. One would think this sort of energy would be reserved for a straight, no chaser punk group, but where Squid’s skills lie is in their ability to utilise the obscure to suit their necessarily erratic dance-punk sound. Their distinctive dissonant funk is truly theirs, so I can only hope they continue to share it with us.

Introductory Song Suggestions: Narrator, Swing (In A Dream), The Cleaner, Houseplants, The Blades

  • Posted on: 22 March 2024
  • By: Nathan Collins