There's a strong smell of bleach coming from the still pool of water in Room 20 in the basement of the Glasgow School Of Art.

The bleach is a last-minute addition to Alice Jacobs's Body Of Light, a large sculpture consisting of said liquid in a sunken black base backed by a luminous fluorescent wall. A necessary one, though, Jacobs explains as she mops up her spillages. Turns out that still pools of water without bleach start to grow mould. Lovely. Graduation shows can be a learning experience, too.

They're certainly an education for the viewer. Anyone wandering around this year's Glasgow School Of Art degree show will come away with an idea of what is animating the next generation. All the usual stuff, you might say: pop music, architecture, surrealism, sex and fashion, but not, perhaps surprisingly, a lot of politics.

Instead, there are a number of crocodiles (some in glass bottles), and if you look closely you'll catch appearances by Engelbert Humperdinck, the Parkhill housing estate in Sheffield and the legacy of modernism in Sheffield in general (courtesy of Frances Lightbound's lovely screenprints on mild steel), vinyl records, old wallpaper, dust from the now-demolished Foulis Building that used to be next door, trampolines (yes, plural) and recipes for seagull curry. Double lovely.

With degree shows you can sometimes play the game of guess-the-influence – I spotted Alison Watt and lots and lots of Karla Black – but that doesn't mean the work can't be good on its own terms. Take Louise Malone's fragile but somehow ominous polythene sacks filled with water and suspended from beams in the ceiling in room 30. The sacks are Black-esque to a degree and an echo of the work of Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto as well, but they made me think of Ridley Scott too. They hang like bloated drops of frozen rain or maybe even huge, waxy alien eggs, pregnant with menace.

Equally creepy, and a lot noisier, is Christopher MacInnes's video installation placed in a specially constructed black box of a room (watch yourself on the stairs, it's very black). MacInnes's video loop offers a screen that breaks up the image into discrete boxes and a visual that effectively disembodies the body (the artist's by the looks of it) into constituent parts – the neck, the back, mouth, teeth, hair. A superb soundbed mixes occasional hip-hop samples with wet, glottal white noise. It's a potent piece of work and if nothing else, you'll never look at a disembodied penis in quite the same way again (if you ever did before).

A rather more restrained horror show is to be found in Rosemary Shepley's work. Balls of bird feathers hang from the ceiling, within which lurk waxen human faces and fingers. The beauty of the objects only adds to the chill of the effect. Shepley can be found on the balcony of room 40 – one of the most entertaining spaces in the Mackintosh Building – alongside Nicola Spencer's mash-up of religious imagery with soft toys and Amalie Silvani-Jones's paintings and tapestry which hint at a Tracey Emin-like candour. Her tapestry is one of the more political things on show, combining George Osborne and pornographic imagery. George looks right at home.

In every degree show some schools are stronger than others. If painting doesn't dazzle this year (though I loved Max Heath's large painting of a small hen and Rosie Roberts's portraits of the Cowardly Lion and Bruno Ganz) there is interesting work to be found in photography and sculpture. Anne Broe Kristensen's stark photographic nudes and damp beds are visions of tension and vulnerability while Dan Williams captures the urban night with a sly noirish menace.

Sculpture, meanwhile, offers Clare McAllister's mini tower blocks, Karina Maksimiuk's huge orange furry beast, part-Muppet, part-Star Wars character and Sofie Fischer-Rasmussen's hovering blue cube that's squeezed into a corner of room 25. Rasmussen tells me wistfully, that she'll have to cut it in half to get it out again after the show. The cube's blue colour – called Route 66 – is a single pixel of colour from the sunshine state, one that sings to the white walls surrounding it.

In the rush and hustle of degree shows quieter works can disappear, like Jaromir Husmann's paper and silver trees. The silver comes from recycled beer cans, he tells me. Recycled by himself initially. "I kind of developed a small drinking problem," he admits. Fortunately there were plenty of people ready to help him out. Sometimes, of course, quietness shouts, as in Rory Best's very straightforward yet very striking Portrait As a Gay Boy, a face etched in charcoal and pastels and blazing with life.

Over at the Glue Factory, where MFA works are on show, you can find the work of Scott Rogers, who has won the GSS Fellowship. Otherwise, it's film that stands out at the venue. Douglas Laing humorously apes the style and shots of Jean Luc Godard. The late-sixties, seriously-political Godard, that is. But the Scottish accents on show add their own extra distancing effect. Erik Osberg chases himself through the streets of Glasgow on an eternal loop as you enter, and in a dark corner of this former industrial space Zoe Williams's Drench is a beautifully lit film of dancing, reflective surfaces and moving cloth. The lushness of the imagery has the scent of perfume advertising.

Back at the GSA Alice Jacobs has finished mopping up and turned her fluorescent wall on again. Normally, she says, she works more with colour but she became obsessed with the reflective qualities of black water. "This is me doing something as simple as humanly possible," she explains. Just liquid and light. Sometimes, of course, that's all you need. A drop of bleach helps though.

The Glasgow School of Art Degree Show opens on Saturday and runs for a week. For more details visit