The world is a weird place to live at the moment. On the one hand, it’s never felt more progressive and forward-thinking, as the attitudes of younger generations generally become more liberal than those that came before them. On the other however, and in what feels like a direct reaction to an increasingly tolerant Western world, conservative ideologies, both extreme and otherwise, are on the rise. As such, ‘Could It Be Different?’, the third album from Glasgow four-piece The Spook School comes at a vital time, and clutching a vital message.
It’s not a political message, however — at least not directly. It’s one of acceptance, solidarity, and defiance; the galvanising “Fuck you, I’m still alive” chorus of the opening track setting the tone of the record perfectly.
Though at its heart ‘Could It Be Different?’ is every bit a punk record, its ideologies are delivered in tandem with the sugar-sweet indie-pop aesthetic the band have made their name with, making it all the more palatable — moreish, even. As such, while The Spook School, and indeed their generation as a whole, have a lot to be pissed off about, ‘Could It Be Different?’ voices its opinions both succinctly and with eloquence; more peaches and cream than piss and vinegar.
‘Bad Year’ for instance, sees the band opine on the chaos that was 2017, both personal and political. Despite its demons however, it retains a frothy, poppy sense of optimism that will be familiar to fans of Trust Fund, while the aforementioned opener ‘Still Alive’ tackles issues of abuse in relationships, making a weighty subject matter entirely danceable.
Mental health has always played an important part in the lyrics of The Spook School, and ‘Could It Be Different?’ is no exception. ‘Less Than Perfect’, ‘Alright’ and ‘Body’ all tackle mental health in its various guises — shedding light on and raising questions about issues that have gone too long ignored.
As a result, ‘Could It Be Different?’ is arguably already one of the most important albums of 2018, despite coming just four weeks in. Accessible and utterly irresistible, its messages of optimism and of equality couldn’t have come at a more salient time, providing a voice to those that feel marginalised, and doing so with a smile and a raised middle finger. An early contender for album of the year.
Words: Dave Beech
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