by tilly o’connor (@tilly_oconnor)
Formed in 2012 at Edinburgh University, The Spook School have spent a few years developing their sound and with this third instalment, it feels as though they’ve fully realised their potential Their LPs make up a righteous trilogy of self expression and celebration. Where previously their work has gushed out their ideas of the world, and while they keep doing so on this one, Could It Be Better? seems more introspective. Full of age old relationship troubles told in a modern way, it’s a pop record for the twitter age.
The album jumps in with Fuck You I’m Still Alive, on which lead singer Nye Todd gives a punk send off to a troubling past experience. Sombre subject matter is somehow transformed into an uplifting tool for overcoming adversity; you previously may have been made to feel small, now you can crank your speakers up to 11 and jump on your bed with two fingers up whether you’re 13 or 83. It gives the impression that it would triumphantly close any live show, with infinite repetitions of the line which gives it its name.
Musically, there are some early Lush shoegaze vibes on Less Than Perfect. Lyrically, this song stands out as being completely three dimensional – it’s self critical while remaining hopeful, acknowledging past naive optimism with a smile. It’s upbeat with soft vocal layers that feel like you’re whooshing along in the passenger seat on an open road while it rains outside. Post listen, you come away with a sense that perhaps things will, be fine.
Most choruses wouldn’t seem out of place on your twitter timeline – “I hope she loves you like I couldn’t do”. In some cases this type of lyric does come across cheesy or perhaps tired. An old pop punk trope is to sing about how bad high school was – unsurprisingly High School does just this and it comes off as a bit dated on an otherwise forward thinking album.
Bad Year tackles the relatable subject of feeling the heavy weight of today’s political and social climate. While accepting that some need to stay optimistic, they highlight the importance of letting yourself feel what your brain and body are telling you to feel about a particular situation.
Most exciting is the track Body. It’s the type of song that everyone could listen to, take their own meaning from and relate to their own feelings. It does however, illustrate the experience of a young trans person’s body dismorphia. For a band that provides a crucial voice for young trans and queer people, this really does feel like the new anthem we’ve all been crying out for. With chirpy and witty video filled to the brim with cartoons and sweet shop colours, this song speaks to everyone but feels like the perfect song for a young person to stumble upon and find solace.
The track is mastered to a radio one standard of glossiness though, despite this, most tracks keep their spikes and fuzz. While cheesy at times, it’s hard to know whether or not fans The Spook School would consider this a negative or not. They provide songs about real world issues and feelings, set to infectious melodies and riffs that make you wish they had lyrics too, just so you could sing along. Although not everyone’s cup of tea musically, the messages are so easy to get behind and relatable that it’s easy to see why the group are on the up.
As they prepare to set off on an American tour, The Spook School let you know that it could be different and if it’s anything like this, this is a change we can get behind.