Every now and again a band comes along that writes great tunes and performs them in an ever so pleasing poprock way but also has something important to say. Really important, in fact. That is The Spook School. The Glaswegian foursome’s early recordings were favourably compared to the Buzzcocks with their general demeanor of punky urgency but quickly established that they were their own musically distinctive entity. The Spook School are all about gender identity and the many ways it shapes and is shaped by what people do. Their music and lyrics capture the confusion, heartbreak, loneliness and danger that accompanies anyone who is gender non-comforming. I challenge anyone to listen to the band’s recorded output and remain indifferent to the aching, tender, and angry insights they have to offer. And they are kick ass songwriters, with a quirky, delightful approach to re-inventing 1970s and 1980s rock and roll.
The debut album, 2013’s Dress Up, has all the band’s key themes on display: chugging rhythm guitars, searching lyrics, and hearts on sleeves, particularly on tracks like “Are You Who You Think You Are?” “I Don’t Know” and “History” with its great rock lead line. 2015’s Try to Be Hopeful takes this formula forward with “Burn Masculinity” and “Try to be Hopeful” but also offers up more single-ish material like “Speak When You’re Spoken To” and the wonderfully celebratory “I Want to Kiss You.” Continental Drift is a compilation from 2016 with two great contributions from The Spook School, the deliriously frantic “Sometimes I Hide From Everybody” and the hooky “Gone Home.”
But nothing could prepare fans for 2018’s Could It Be Different?, an album that roils with explosive intensity and a powerful sense of confidence. The Spook School kick out the gender jams on this release. The tone is set with the opening track, “Still Alive,” as the singer lets loose with “Fuck you, I’m still alive,” surely the most clear statement any oppressed group can make. From there the album is a tour de force, a major statement about being different and how hard that is. The killer tracks are just about everything: “Best of Intentions,” “Bad Year,” “Alright (Sometimes),” “I Hope She Loves You,” and “While You Were Sleeping” with its great lead guitar opener. This record is a top ten for the year, no doubt.
Do you know someone struggling with gender and gender identity? Because The Spook School is the kind of cultural support they need. Something that can give voice to their struggles and pain and, even, joy sometimes – with music and words. And everybody else wouldn’t suffer from hearing The Spook School either. Check our their tunes and latest adventures online.