Now signed to Alcopop! Records (and Slumberland in the States), Glasgow four-piece The Spook School are all set to release their third album ‘Could it be Different?’ ahead of a US tour with Diet Cig and various shows throughout the UK. On their last two albums on the much-missed Fortuna Pop, the band tackled social issues varying from sexuality and anxiety to hopes and fears with candour and wit and this is all set to continue on this latest record.
Some feedback and a sample of speech attacking the government and demanding they don’t bring you down signal the opening of ‘Still Alive’. This is a melodic and triumphant song full of rage at someone who emotionally abused Nye Todd (‘You wanted me to feel small’) but also a celebration that this experience is now in the past and he’s free to live his life the way he wants: ‘Fuck you I am still alive and I’m not going anywhere with you’. ‘Best of Intentions’ swiftly follows this 2-minute song has the bouncy feel-good nature of Britpop’s best bands as the band welcome a safe space for all genders, sexualities and identities: ‘This is your space, this is the best place’. There’s a more melancholy air on ‘Keep in Touch’, which finds the band lamenting how loved ones can move on and leave you behind: ‘We were friends with the feeling of permanence’; ‘We were so young and had false dawns of forever’. This sadness continues on to ‘Bad Year’, a subtly anthemic song which finds the band being honest and open about mental health and the way you can feel guilty about other people attempting to help: ‘I keep thinking of myself because I’m such a selfish man’.
There’s a cute nod to The Smiths in Anna Cory’s opening lines to ‘I Only Dance When I Want to’’: ‘I wasn’t going out tonight and I didn’t have a stitch to wear’. As the bouncy, foot-shuffling rhythm section comes in, the bassist talks about their experiences of meeting up with someone they cared about, but nothing going quite to plan: ‘You say it’s my favourite song’; ‘you’re reaching for my hands now but I don’t wanna dance’. There’s a celebratory tone when Anna decides it’s time they moved on and we could hear elements of Sl0tface in this open narrative. Another love letter to the past features in ‘I Hope She Loves You’. Nye talks about how an ex is now engaged and how they’re ‘not inclined that way’. He also apologises to this former lover, even though he probably doesn’t need to: ‘I know that I confused you. You thought you done something wrong’. As the album reaches its final throes, ‘Body’ will strike a chord with anyone who feels unsatisfied with their body image, although the song does have a hopeful tone about getting out and living: ‘I still hate my body but I’m learning to love what it can do’. However, this is soon shattered by a crashing breakdown of the instruments as the band ask: ‘Are you OK now? Do you feel alright? Why did you say you want to die?’
‘High School’ is another deeply personal tale about the way people lie to themselves to fit in during their youth and whether this was really necessary. Should you pretend to like sports and books you have no interest in just to impress your fellow students – and how have these experiences shaped your adult life: ‘If I played sport in high school, would I be confident? Would have I thought more of myself and had more self-respect?’; ‘Would I have wasted less time? Would I have come out earlier of would I keep inside’? There’s a melancholy air as the stream of consciousness begins to think about what could have been if the band had been free to be themselves from a younger age: ‘I’m not saying I regret the old days. I can take back the choices that I made. I guess I wouldn’t want to anyway’.
It’s these kinds of observations and the following sense of empowerment the triumphant nature of the music brings about that are what make this such an important record for so many who may feel out of place. Follow The Spook School’s lead and celebrate your differences, even though sometimes it can be hard.