Precursors to LCD Soundsystem, DFA-affiliated dance-punk party animals The Rapture never really got their dues; let’s hope the same fate doesn’t befall PVA. It’s hard to imagine that drummer Louis Satchell was the last of the trio on board: flanked by founder members Ella Harris and Josh Baxter, he and the relentless beats he lays down seem fundamental to the Ninja Tune signees’ modus operandi. Add Harris’ deadpan vocals, plus Baxter’s synths and light funk guitar licks, into the mix and you’ve got something in the sweet spot between !!! and Factory Floor.
On a couple of occasions, passages of clubby euphoria are cut disappointingly short with buzzkill endings when they could have happily stayed in the groove for longer, and there can’t be many bands more deserving of the heckle “more cowbell!” But equally there can’t be many support acts who quite rightly exit the stage to a thoroughly defrosted crowd chanting their name.
Once upon a time not so very long ago, post-punk seemed to have become – in the hands of the younger generation – a byword for slavish, dour Joy Division worship. But, as Simon Reynolds’ excellent tome Rip It Up And Start Again reminds us, it was originally a much broader church than that. Along with kindred spirits Black Country, New Road, Squid take their cue ideologically if not necessarily sonically from the likes of Talking Heads and The Pop Group.
Debut LP Bright Green Field, released on dance label Warp (where they’re a much better fit than Maximo Park ever were), reveals them to be a many-tentacled beast. While singing drummer Ollie Judge rails at the constraints of modern life under late capitalism, the songs speak instead of a creative freedom uninhibited by convention or expectation.
Tonight, there’s little crowd interaction, with the performance left to do all the talking. It’s fair to say that Judge’s exaggerated yelp will be Marmite to many ears, and the abrupt changes of direction can be disconcerting. But if you can embrace the incomprehensibility and just surrender yourself to them, you soon find that Squid are trustworthy tour guides guaranteed to take you to interesting, out-of-the-way places. Boy Racers is a case in point, the needly guitars suddenly dropping out halfway through to be replaced with droning synth and Judge dancing animatedly around his kit as if performing some sort of shamanic ritual.
Paddling and pre-album single The Cleaner also impress, while Narrator and Pamphlets, which conclude the main set and the encore respectively, are stunning illustrations of the art of tension and release – and of the inestimable value of witnessing music performed live. It’s a measure of the band’s confidence and the strength of the new material that breakthrough track Houseplants has been ditched and there are no complaints.
You get the sense that Squid could go pretty much anywhere from here. Wherever that turns out to be, it’d be worth your while following.
Tramshed, Cardiff, Sun 3 Oct
words BEN WOOLHEAD photos JONATHAN HERRON