The second effort from Edinburgh’s The Spook School is exhilarating, thought-provoking and unashamedly brilliant.
On 2013’s Dress Up, we heard the sound of a band still figuring out who they were; their C86-inspired indie-pop impressive but perhaps lacking a certain degree of self-confidence. On Try To Be Hopeful, the four-piece talk gender fluidity and subverting stereotypes, and consequently appear thoroughly sure of exactly who they are. Trans lead singer Nye, who was undertaking testosterone treatment during the recording of the album, sings with a superb energy and delightful self-assuredness.
Opening track ‘Burn Masculinity’ is perhaps the most politically-explicit song title on the album, alongside penultimate track ‘Binary’. The former clocks in at a breakneck two minutes and asks “what good has masculinity ever done?”, before answering “there’s nothing it gives to us”. The latter is a distinctly darker, bass-driven number, before exploding into a thoroughly uplifting chorus with Nye declaring that he is “bigger than a hexadecimal”.
“Try To Be Hopeful is a masterpiece in combining catchy, guitar-led pop songs with subject matters about which the band are passionate”
‘Richard and Judy’ is the most urgent song on Try To Be Hopeful, pushed along by a series of sweet, interweaving riffs. Coincidentally, the exquisite sound of the guitars is a recurring feature throughout. Not to say that it would be a bad album otherwise, but Hookworms’ MJ’s attention to detail with the guitars adds another dimension to an already exceptional album.
‘Speak When You’re Spoken To’ begins with a euphoric, bubblegum guitar riff before exploding into a scuzzy garage-rock tune. ‘August 17th’ is more down-tempo, a welcome break from the heart-pounding, 100mph indie-pop, and ends with a real lighters-in-the-air moment. ‘I Want To Kiss You’ is another feel-good number – the right mix of political earnestness and outright fun, a combination that is central to Try To Be Hopeful.
“The four-piece talk gender fluidity and subverting stereotypes, and consequently appear thoroughly sure of exactly who they are”
The album ends with the title track, a five-minute uplifting piece about always looking forward and hoping for the best. It’s perhaps the tenderest thing that The Spook School have written to date and, as a result, leaves their C86 comparisons lagging behind.
Try To Be Hopeful is a masterpiece in combining catchy, guitar-led pop songs with subject matters about which the band are passionate. In its field, it’s certainly one of the best of 2015.
Alex is currently listening to ‘Costner’ by TRAAMS