Album Review: Square – …For Need And Love Of Bystanders

My thoughts towards Bandcamp are well documented on this site. It seems like every week a new band or artist appears that grabs my attention. Last week was no exception, considering I discovered a new band called Square that released a new album just weeks ago. What grabbed me was the album cover, a fox lying on the street. My son’s room is filled of stuffed ones, so I felt a connection even on the most basic of ways, albeit a sad one (Let’s just say the little guy on the cover is just sleeping…). But I didn’t let it keep me down, since I discovered another up-and-coming band that is worth repeated listens.

square live
Photo by Square (Facebook)

From Edmonton, Canada, these progressive/alternative rockers consists of Steven Boehm on vocals/bass, Max Rush on guitar/keyboard, and Tomas Andel on drums, with each contributing in many other ways to the album. In their first release, Square has put together a solid performance in “…For Need And Love Of Bystanders,” a softer take on alternative and math rock with progressive influences sprinkled on top. The “softness” of the album doesn’t begin at the album’s start, though, considering the Rush-sounding guitar riffs, the Yes-influenced keyboards, and Brandon Boyd/Casey Crescenzo-esque vocals of “Red.” This 35 minute album has its fair share of ups and downs, providing a coherent flow only captured in the best storytellers. It’s all too fitting that “…For Need…” follows a concept of sorts, reflecting on uncertain changes, untimely endings, and the help desired from others during time of crises (Thanks Tomas for the interpretation!). The listener is brought on an emotional journey as they follow the injured and wounded “protagonist” from song to song.

Following what I’m guessing could be the album’s opening single track is two softer songs, post-rockish “Casualties” and alternative “Bearded Lady.” The delayed rhythm guitar throughout “Casualties” lulls its audience into a dreamy state, shattering the peace only during the song’s bridge with sudden overdriven strums. The trance continues into “Bearded Lady,” featuring a casual drum beat by Andel utilizing all the cymbals on the set, and picking up with a swift improvisation during the middle of the song. Much of the album continues in this way, a melodic and welcoming sound. For an album containing math rock influences (“Persimmon” in particular), the album is much more groovy than technical, instead relying on the calmness of the listener than their vigor. It’s one of those albums you enjoy after a long day at work in the comfort of your home, instead of blasting it on the ride home in frustratingly slow traffic.

The calmness continues with “Fingers In The Dirt,” a quiet song with drummer Andel at center stage setting the scene vocally, and Rush doing what he does best with echoing bluesy guitar solos and riffs. It’s the most lighthearted track, one that I’d love to see an extended version of in a live setting. Next is mathy “Persimmon,” the first outright heavy song since “Red.” Raw, turbulent, and energetic embody the drum beats as they provide the tempo for the remaining members. Kudos to whoever invited the trumpet to the party, adding a little unexpected flair to the album. The heaviness continues with my personal favorite “Transportation,” a Steven Wilson-meets-Riddle House instrumental display of wild guitar licks, heavy bass lines, and lots of crash cymbals. Closing the album is the ambitious “In A Silent Car.” Lasting nearly 7 minutes, the song picks up right where things left off in the previous song. Literally. “In A Silent Car” is the culmination of the album’s concept, a chance for emotional relief. Have we received that need and love from bystanders by the album’s end? My answer is a definite yes.

square
Photo by Square (Facebook)

“…For Need And Love of Bystanders” is a solid first album by Square. Shorter than an LP but longer than an EP, the investment is completely worth it. If I had one complaint to the album, it would be my desire for more of the harder songs than what appears on the album. But understanding the narrative, it wouldn’t be fitting. Perhaps the subject matter for the next album might be more uplifting, but in the meantime I will gladly play Square on repeat. Please support this band by visiting their Bandcamp page and getting your FREE copy of the album. You can also follow them on Facebook for band updates. I look forward to this band’s next release.

Be sure to check out my interview with the band here!

Enjoy a complimentary listen of “…For Need And Love Of Bystanders” from Bandcamp below:

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