Release Date: Jan 26, 2018
Record label: Slumberland
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
2015’s Try to be Hopeful broadcast a message of liberation. With tracks like “Burn Masculinity”, the group created space for a fiercely fluid and proudly queer post-punk, the kind of politically engaged indie we’d all been waiting for. Could It Be Different? carries on exactly where they left off. In their songwriting, The Spook School have always merged transformational politics with an anthemic quality, and the LP's opener is no exception: "Still Alive" narrates the experience of coming through an abusive relationship with spitting rage and a sing-along chorus: "Fuck you, I'm still alive!". Vitriol aside, the album's also about the passage of time.
The chorus of the first song on Could It Be Different? rings out in defiant glee as the bandmembers proclaim "fuck you! I'm still alive." This sentiment defines the Spook School's third album in one instant of punk pop glory. The uplifting and empowering current of righteous anger and unbridled attitude runs like electricity throughout the record as the band wrap their punches in giant hooks, couch their introspection in ringing guitar lines, and write songs that are perfect for angry dancing and happy tears. Working again with Hookworms' Matthew Johnson at the controls, the foursome get a cleaner, tougher sound that gives the already tougher-than-heartbreak songs another level of power.
On their third full-length LP, The Spook School continue to deal in optimistic ambiguity and unashamedly goofy queer indie pop. Only now, there's noticeably less snarl in the tone of the songs. Queer, trans, left wing, and unashamedly optimistic, The Spook School write from a place of almost default opposition. Yet, Could It Be Different? showcases a band that are above victimisation and aggression— here, the band tell tales of abuse and alienation with a self-assurance that transforms dark subject matters into infectious indie pop numbers.
The Spook School’s third album, Could It Be Different? follows on from 2013’s Dress Up and 2015’s Try To Be Hopeful, albums celebrating queer and trans identities, as potentially their most personal work. Fully self aware, each song is at heart autobiographical, sharing easily relatable moments that also resonate in the broader socio-political context. The album opens with an ‘off camera’ pep talk and launches into the surprisingly upbeat Still Alive, a song which details leaving an emotionally abusive relationship, regaining freedom and sense of self with the surely crowd-rousing chorus of “Fuck you, I’m still alive”..
In 2015, Scottish quartet the Spook School met with Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace to discuss the realities facing transgender artists in the music industry. Spook School singer/guitarist Nye Todd, who had come out as transgender about a year earlier, was eager to ask Grace how fans reacted to her 2012 revelation. “People have been very supportive of me in general,” Grace said.