Having garnered interest from the likes of Laura Jane Grace to supporting Diet Cig on their most recent stint in the UK, Edinburgh’s The Spook School continue to write twee indie pop regarding relationships, gender identity and growing up. Their influences from The Buzzcocks and the abrasive elements of C86 continue to shine on new release ‘Could It Be Different?’, which is set to become their most important output to date.
Opener ‘Still Alive’ greets us with a powerful monologue, wailing feedback, and the uplifting incantation of “Fuck you I’m still alive” that instantly gets stuck in your head. Lyrically it’s a clear jab at abusers in relationships, with vocalist Nye Todd coming out on top of a partner treating them badly and directing their anger in a bittersweet fury.
Much of ‘Could It Be Different’ sounds relatively gritty compared to other indie bands, giving a nice balance between its playful instrumentation and melancholic introspection. For example, ‘Bad Year’ was written after Brexit took place, but given the climate of abusers being outed in recent months, Todd’s lyrics are ever relatable; “I want all my friends not to be terrified”.
As strong as the songwriting is, for the most part ‘Could It Be Different’ has a tendency to meander around the formulaic rock blueprint. ‘Alright’ and ‘I Only Dance When I Want To’ are two of the album’s weaker cuts.
Thankfully it’s the levels of self-awareness in the lyrics and ear candy guitar riffs on ‘I Hope She Loves You’ and ‘While You Were Sleeping’ where things begin to pick up. The riveting riffs ooze with nostalgic mid-2000s indie goodness.
While The Spook School’s third effort is far from perfect, ‘Could It Be Different’ is a triumphant queer pop record that is in equal measures empowering, as it is a treat to sing along to.
‘Could It Be Different?’ by The Spook School is released on 26th January on Alcopop! Records (UK) and Slumberland Records (US).
Words by Ashwin Bhandari (@GIVEUPOX17)