While what ‘punk’ means is highly debatable and multi-pronged, for many young listeners, it can offer an introduction to the concept of challenging conventional thought.
Try to Be Hopeful, the title of The Spook School’s sophomore album, is not a statement of intent in the band’s able hands but a command. Lyrically, the Scottish quartet directly challenges assumptions about sex, gender, sexuality, love and other issues affecting the queer community, which listeners may find inspiring or confirming, especially if they’ve always felt pushed to the margins of not just the mainstream but of subculture as well.
In a video produced by Rolling Stone magazine, The Spook School’s frontman Nye Todd and Against Me! lead singer Laura Jane Grace, both of whom are transgender, meet to discuss how they approach music. When the camera turns to drummer Niall McCamley, he sums up the importance of Todd’s personal lyrics: “The whole reason that you’re probably not aware of these things [queer issues] is because they’re marginal to you and your life… and so the only way you can actually learn about these things and get informed is to let these people have a voice.”
While the song lyrics are an integral part of The Spook School’s sound, it’s their catchy melodies that will keep listeners coming back for more. Buzzcocks are an obvious reference point for the band’s tension between melody and punk edginess.
Case in point is the single “I Want to Kiss You”, which is about unabashedly reveling in the optimistic haze of a new love. “Tell me that you’ve never felt like this before,” Todd sings on the outro. The song has a sing-a-long quality long before you’ve even learned the words, and it’s around 100 bpm, so you’ll be dancing as well.
Try to Be Hopeful is available now from Fortuna POP!