The Spook School
Try To Be Hopeful
Release date: December 11, 2015
Hailing from the UK, Edinburgh’s The Spook School is a unique blend. Musically, the indie pop leanings of this quartet sound somewhat like a mix of the Buzzcocks and The Smiths, with maybe a dash of early Pixies thrown in. Lyrically, the band treads a fine line between the sappy, happy cartoon themes of Saturday mornings gone by and the demented joy of an adult who realizes that the world is not all it was made out to be, and the only answer is to embrace life’s absurdity. If you can imagine a punky, jangly take on the classic Scooby Doo theme, you may not be too far off from the sound put forth on the band’s sophomore release Try To Be Hopeful.
The band’s unique sound and outlook on life comes through strong. Opening track “Burn Masculinity” tells a tale of finding one’s own identity outside of the normal clichés of manhood. The song is propelled forward by strong punk drumming which pushes the waves of feedback and fuzzy guitars forward. The same formula is apparent on the following track “Richard And Judy” and used to even greater effect by a faster tempo that kicks the intensity up a notch. This powerful undercurrent runs through all the songs on this release, bringing to mind the best of indie rock and early punk. “Friday Night” opens with the kind of bass riff that would have been perfectly at home on the Pixies seminal Come On Pilgrim. “Books And Hooks And Movements” adds in a bit of funk a la Richard Hell and the Voidoids “Destiny Street.” Even the more subdued songs in this collection seethe with punk energy.
It’s impossible to review Try To Be Hopeful without mentioning the smart lyrics that grace every song. “Speak When You’re Spoken To” offers a witty view on an unrequited, or perhaps even unfound, love. The title track speaks longingly of the fear caused by the fleeting nature of hope. While either of these sound like they would make for depressing topics for a song, The Spook School are rebelling against the way things should be in order to enjoy them for what they are. The end result is an album full of Morrissey style ponderings that create a positivity that’s infectious. The Spook School will not be dragged down by life’s imperfections, but will celebrate them as part of the journey we all face. The wit and honesty that is the basis for their lyrics shines through the grit of life, and brings sparkle to even dark topics.
Try To Be Hopeful is, overall, a fun album. The raw energy that drives these songs brings me back to punk bands like Bow Wow Wow, and the lyrics are intelligent and witty in a way that makes Pet Shop Boys envious. The Spook School is making the best of life, and damn the consequences. One has to admire the pluck and positivity the band shows on this release.
Reviewed by Jim1340