It's commonly purported these days that there's no revolution to be had in the arena of 'rock' any more; music used to change the world, and it doesn't and can't do that at the moment because it's all a bit shallow and ego-driven. Those people have clearly never heard of The Spook School, however - although they probably won't change the world, they do a damn good job of trying to make it better.
When you listen to 'Try To Be Hopeful', you'll find a life-affirming call to arms, to speak up, be heard, and be yourself; to burn masculinity and shatter binaries. The Spook School's exploration of identity and sexuality as a prominent theme is of course nothing new: the band's debut 'Dress Up' was a playful and considered take on the subject at hand, and while songs like 'Are You Who You Think You Are' affirmed their keenness to combine indie pop melodies with more serious subject matters, there was a sense that they were only just getting started.
To ignore the lyrics on 'Try To Be Hopeful' is to negate The Spook School's significance completely. Musically, they've always been purveyors of punk and the shambling indie pop aesthetic - invoking the chaotic spirit of Buzzcocks, and the indelible, melodic hooks of The Shop Assistants - but here they dissect gender issues, fidelity, and romantic grievances with more force and conviction. Viv Albertine once said, “it's important to tell the difference between entertainment and radicalism”, but who said you can't do both? The Spook School get the balance just about right here.
Of course, The Spook School's propensity for melody is one that makes 'Try To Be Hopeful' just as enduring as their debut, if not more so. 'Vicious Machine' demonstrates this wonderfully as it tackles the subject of complicated romance with an urgency that's impossible to forget. Elsewhere, Nye Todd's vocals - though slightly buried - sound better and more assured than ever, and production is appropriately unembellished, bringing out the best of every member, thanks to the ever-reliable MJ from Hookworms.
It's true that every band ever sings about love and lack thereof, but never in the way that The Spook School do. Similarly, you might think punk bands berating the patriarchy is uninspired, but The Spook School do so with spirit, vibrancy and clever honesty, demonstrating how candid discussions of gender and sexuality in pop culture is still worryingly subversive.
“We need you to know that we exist”, sing The Spook School on the distinctly Buzzcockian 'Richard and Judy', their intent on jubilantly pissing on the patriarchy nothing short of perfection. If you didn't think it was possible to surpass the effortless charm of 'Dress Up', then you'd be wrong. Once again, The Spook School give hope to those going through personal crisis, without the need to be dour or earnest in the process. The importance of 'Try To Be Hopeful' importance today is undeniable.
Words: Hayley Scott
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