Is there anything more delightful than a singing drummer (or is it a drummer who sings? One to debate)? There’s something magnificent about them, sitting there behind their kit, boshing away whilst also finding the wherewithal to bash out a tune too. How do they do it? How are they not completely breathless all the time? How are they not slumped, knackered and hoarse behind their tom toms? It’s a minor miracle that singing drummers exist at all, and it’s a minor miracle that Ollie Judge, singing drummer of ‘new weird’ band Squid does it so unbelievably tightly with organised chaos rolling around him. You see, Squid are no straightforward guitar band; they do things differently with synths, cellos, trumpets, lots of guitars, and a singing drummer for crying out loud. It’s a heady mix, and that it all works so well together to produce stellar performances capturing the intricacies of their recorded output is quite something.

This is the third time I’ve seen Squid in Manchester, and it’s by far the biggest venue they’ve played so far. Sold out, there’s a heavy mix of 6Music dads, students, and in-betweens, a nice mix showcasing the band’s expanded appeal. Not that they’ve dialled in any kind of commercial sound; quite the opposite in fact, with their second album O Monolith released earlier this year being more sonically knotty if anything than their superb debut Bright Green Field. Straight into O Monolith’s opener ‘Swing(In a Dream)’, they’re off, and they do not let up for the next 90 minutes or so.

After the openers, there’s a run that might be up there with my favourite parts of a gig this year. ‘Undergrowth’ is pure swagger, the loloping bass and spooky guitar lines giving way to Judge’s drawl ‘put your thumb and fingers around my neck’…it ends with swathes of ambient noise from the band, Judge stood behind his kit swaying menacingly, swigging from a can, and it’s electric. This gives way to what I can only describe as an ‘ADHD Techno’(™) interlude that properly bangs, before segueing into ‘G.S.K’ which itself collapses into a beautiful cello interlude before picking back up into an incendiary ‘Narrator’, the highlight of their debut album. In the absence of Martha Skye Murphy to wail over the outro, the band just tightly revolve around Judge repeating ‘I’ll play mine’ over and over, ratcheting up the tension repeat after repeat, before it all breaks apart as Judge screams ‘I’ll play my part’ and it’s all chaotic noise, lights flying, arms flailing. It breaks down into a trumpet interlude into the next track, and fuck me if the whole section isn’t just absolutely thrilling.

It feels churlish to say, because it really is a very very good show all round, but the rest of the gig struggles to live up to that run. There’s a wonderful ‘did I just hear that?’ moment as Judge sings the muckiest excerpts of Nine Inch Nails ‘Closer’ during one track, and an extended ‘Pamphlets’ into ‘The Blades’ to end with is properly stunning, Judge putting his sticks down to come to the front of the stage during ‘Blades’ and pace around muttering the final throes of the track to more slightly menacing effect. The whole band are a marvel, polymaths of music swapping between instruments, sometimes playing two at once – bassist Laurie Nankivel frequently wields his guitar and a trumpet, and all rounder Arthur Leadbetter seems to have a go on pretty much everything bar the drums. It makes for an entertaining watch, even when the energy lulls after that extraordinary middle section. Squid are weird, and there’s a packed out crowd in a decent sized venue to see them. That in itself is gratifying; that they’re also this good is something of a minor miracle.