The Spook School return with their brand new album. Try To Be Hopeful is brim full of noisy, tuneful and triumphant queer pop songs about identity, sexuality and being awesome.
The Spook School are Anna Cory (bass/vocals), Adam Todd (guitar / vocals), Nye Todd (guitar / vocals) and Niall McCamley (drums). Since forming in 2012 they've become increasingly involved with the DIY queer punk scene, taking inspiration from the passionate, like-minded people they've met along the way, and from bands such as Martha, Joanna Gruesome, Trust Fund and Tuff Love. Citing influences including Buzzcocks, T-Rex and the noisier end of C86, the new album is louder, bolder, fuller-sounding and captures more of their live sound'aided and abetted by producer MJ of Hookworms. It follows The Spook School's critically acclaimed debut 'Dress Up' which received plaudits from the Guardian, Uncut ('a rewarding, multi-layered debut') and Loud and Quiet ('this is music for the young and disillusioned, but identifiable to anyone who's ever been frustrated by the grievances of identity and growing up.')
The Spook School have since seen their music used on TV, having recorded the theme tune for BBC 3 series 'Badults'. They have also toured the US, where they became the subject of a Rolling Stone documentary and met Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! Lyrically, its more direct than their debut, exploring issues around gender and identity, the destructive stereotypes that are generally accepted as the norm, and the difficulties of fighting them and building alternatives. Nye was undertaking his own personal journey during the making of the record too, beginning to really embrace his trans identity and starting testosterone therapy, a side effect of which meant that his voice kept changing throughout the recording process. The Spook School are a band in the most communal sense of the word. Songwriting is split between all 4 members, giving a different perspective and energy to each song. 'Richard and Judy' talks about conservatism and how easy it is to accept that this is what 'normal' is and how schools are 'such horrible little places of enforced heteronormativity'.
The opening track, 'Burn Masculinity' (on a new Plan-It-X Records comp), is an empowering anthem for our time that challenges male privilege. The first single proper, 'I Want To Kiss You', captures the excitement and anticipation of meeting someone, thinking they're the most interesting person ever and not wanting to wait to see them again. 'It's totally about kissing people,' concludes Nye. Perhaps the standout track is 'Binary', a song about questioning gender norms, something that Nye's experience of coming out as being trans has forced him to think about..'I'm so proud and fortunate to know quite a few amazing people who openly identify as non-binary, genderqueer or other non-binary identities - they exist in the world on their own terms and consistently challenge something that so many people just take as read. This song has quickly become a live favourite, prompting massed choruses of the 'I am bigger than a hexadecimal' line.
Try To Be Hopeful is the sound of a band growing up, embracing their identities, and taking charge at the world. The Spook School are the shot of optimism we've been hoping for.
1. Burn Masculinity
2. Richard and Judy
3. Friday Night
4. Speak When You're Spoken To
5. August 17th
6. Everybody Needs to Be in Love
7. Vicious Machine
8. I Want To Kiss You
9. Books And Hooks And Movements
11. Try To Be Hopeful