Square Wild: The Tree-P
CD | DL
The eagerly anticipated thunderous first release from Manchester’s Square Wild – a few thoughts on a rainy Sunday morning by Toby Cryne.
I’ve been aware of Square Wild for a few years now – following them in all the usual millennial places and watching their presence grow throughout lockdown.
And, if their videos are anything to go by – they’re a hell of a presence live. I for one can’t wait to see for myself at their mini-fest in February.
But first EPs aren’t easy as a band. You learn a lot about your group when you record for the first time. It’s like a first holiday with a new partner. It can be the beginning of something great or the fast-track to having plates thrown at you in a cheap Spanish villa.*
For those in the know, the result of this first jaunt in the studio will come as no surprise. This is one hell of an entrance – some of the most imaginative songwriting I’ve come across over the past few years. Don’t let their couple of thousand followers on socials fool you – this lot mean business.
Square Wild are…
- Louder Than War’s own Lucy Shevchuk – Vocals, Guitar
- Jack Vallance – Guitar
- Tomos Cooper – Drums, Vocals
- Robert Palmer Fenney – Bass
When I first listen to a new band or album…
I write down my first impressions on a notepad. Or at least I like to say I do. In reality, it’s the ‘notes’ section of my iPhone – but there’s nothing Hemingway about that.
Here’s what I wrote whilst listening to The Tree-P for the first time:
- That riff wants me to invade a country (Hounds opening riff)
- Songs take me on a journey
- Stunning vocals
- Tight as a mouse’s ear (yeah, I actually wrote that)
- I should quit guitar
Let’s break it down a little…
Boom! What a way to introduce yourself. The opening riff is like something Royal Blood would have done back when they were exciting – you know, before they wrote the same song over and over again.
The song itself is a thinly-veiled critique of a certain group of people in society – I’ll let the lyrics themselves do the talking here. Needless to say – it’s angry as hell.
The chorus line “ripped apart by hounds” works alongside the movement of the piece – pushing the listener into a mindframe of people being chased through a field by an angry mob. It’s a pressing image for our times given everything that’s been going on/still going on.
Lucy’s vocals bounce around the octaves in a frenzy, adding to the sense of unease and urgency – while the snarling bass grinds away during the verses. Jack’s guitars on this track are imaginative and intricate. This isn’t just power chords and attitude – the notes are intelligently thought out.
The ending is just ridiculous – the sort of thing only a band who are tighter than, ahem, a mouse’s ear could get away with. When it’s over, you just want to punch someone.
A more ‘traditional’ song in some ways, Fishman starts off with a subdued bluesy chord progression before Tomos’ drums wind up and Lucy takes off again during the choruses.
Robert’s bass lines during the pre-chorus are funky as hell – not something I was expecting to say in this review. And again, both he and Tomos seem to be glued together during the bluesy walk downs, choruses (chorusi?), and guitar solos.
Jack once again delivers a masterclass in guitar playing during the solo and outro – enough to make this guitar player of 15 years feel rather useless.
It’s a bluesy interlude – something quite needed after the onslaught of Hounds and it fits well bang in the middle of this EP. Vocally it’s full of surprises – Lucy once again showing her range, anger, and prowess over melody. One thing’s for sure, whoever she’s talking about in this song – I wouldn’t want to be him walking through the front door. He might not get to leave again.
And so, we’re on to the final track of the Tree-P, Mother. At over 6 minutes, it’s the longest of the record – though not by much.
There’s a more innocent approach to the vocals at the start of this tune. It’s more reserved and personal. Haunting is a word too often used in music ‘journalism’ so I’ll refrain, but I’m sure you’ll get the picture. Though this innocence is short-lived, it shows that Lucy ain’t just a lass with a booming set of pipes. Like Jack, she’s capable of subtlety and intricacy in a way that often escapes rock bands.
Like Fishman, it starts slowly before breaking into the filthiest bass line this side of Rage’s Know Your Enemy and heading on a mad-dash musical journey of killer guitar riffs, vocals that’ll knock your teeth out and some of the sauciest bass lines I’ve heard. Take a bow Robert and Tomos – that ending had this reviewer’s head nodding so hard he nearly smashed it on the kitchen table.
As you might expect, I thought this was a killer first EP. Sure, it’s not mixed like a Top 10 record – but it’s not supposed to be. This is the first offering from a band who’s lived out in the wild for most of their musical existence – their first nights under shelter.
I can’t wait to hear what they do next.
*Yup, I’ve still got the bruise.