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Album Review: The Spook School – Could It Be Different?

 
By on Thursday, 25th January 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Spook School Could It Be Different coverGlasgow-based indie pop band The Spook School have become known for combining emotionally honest lyrical treatment of gender and sexuality with an upbeat and unapologetic pop-punk musical sound. Their first two albums, 2013’s ‘Dress Up’ and 2015 release ‘Try to Be Hopeful’ both explore queer and trans identities in a broad societal context as well as in the more intimate context of personal relationships. The band’s new third LP ‘Could It Be Different?’ leans noticeably toward the personal end of that spectrum, its songs reflecting on past relationships and measuring their impact on present ones.

The album’s first two singles place themselves on either end of the dichotomy. Album opener ‘Still Alive’ is a triumphant liberation from an abusive relationship, with a rebellious chorus that will surely become a crowd-favourite singalong in live performance: “fuck you, I’m still alive / and I’m not going anywhere with you.” Follow-up release ‘Less Than Perfect’ is lighter and brighter in tone, but subdued in its acceptance of unfulfilled expectations. “We’re made of puzzle pieces / and I hope that I am right,” sings Anna Cory, “when I guess the parts you recognize / could be the parts you like.”

Cory’s lead vocal sets up another juxtaposition on ‘Could It Be Different?’, this one musical in nature. Alternating the lead vocal between Cory and Nye Todd adds an element of interest to an otherwise homogenous sonic palette. The Spook School’s fuzzy lo-fi guitars and relentlessly uptempo rhythms are deliberate hallmarks of their sound, but while they lend cohesion to the album, they also become a bit predictable. The variation in vocal timbre and lyrical perspective counteracts this effect nicely, especially on Cory’s late-album tracks ‘I Only Dance When I Want To’ and ‘While You Were Sleeping’.

Backing vocals are cleverly applied in several places on ‘Could It Be Different?”, notably in the poignantly nostalgic ‘Keep In Touch’. Cory’s lofty “ahhs” lend a feeling of hazy memory behind the bittersweet reflection “we were so naïve / we were so together / we were so young . . .” That air of reflection takes on a different tone in ‘I Hope She Loves You’, where Todd sings from a removed and distinctly present point of view, “I’m a whole different person / I’m not inclined that way.”

The Spook School also examine current social issues in terms of their personal impact. ‘Bad Year’ tackles the demoralising effect of Brexit in the UK, as Todd describes his emotional shock: “I admire your optimism but I just need to feel it / I just need to take a moment before I can start dealing.” Current single ‘Body’ takes a head-on look at body dysmorphia, opening with a stark and brutally honest statement, “do you like the way you look naked? / I don’t know if any of us do”, but softening the blow, as usual, with their quirky guitar pop sound.

Album closer ‘High School’ harkens back to gawky adolescence with lyrical lines that are awkward in places, but its adult perspective is clear: “I’m not saying I regret the old days / can’t take back the choices that I made / I guess I wouldn’t want to anyway”. Even in this more sombre-toned ballad, The Spook School refuse to descend into complete sonic despair. Despite the weighty subject matter, their energetic music ultimately projects the idea that these conflicted and confused feelings are okay.

‘Could It Be Different?’ embraces the messiness and ambiguity in human relationships across the spectra of gender and sexuality. The songs are specifically intended to address gender-fluid relationships, but their underlying sentiments are universally applicable, and the band’s lo-fi indie pop is engaging without being intimidating. The Spook School haven’t necessarily stepped out of their own comfort zone with this album, but they might just encourage the rest of us to step out of ours.

7.5/10

‘Could It Be Different?’ is due out tomorrow, Friday, the 26th of January via Alcopop! Records (UK) / Slumberland Records (America). The Spook School will support alt-pop duo Diet Cig on their North American tour beginning on the 29th of January; find details on their official Facebook. TGTF’s past coverage of The Spook School is collected through this link.

 

Video of the Moment #2745: The Spook School

 
By on Friday, 17th November 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

Scottish indie pop quartet The Spook School have unveiled another new video from their forthcoming LP ‘Could It Be Different?’, due out early next year on Slumberland Records / Alcopop. The new single, titled ‘Less Than Perfect’, features lead vocals from bass player Anna Cory, and though its lyrics talk about the disappointment of unmet expectations in adult life, the song itself is pure pop perfection. Its music is joyously bright and bouncy, with an infectiously catchy chorus hook: “it’s all right now / not what you hoped but that’s okay / teenage hopes are never less than perfect anyway”.

The video treatment for ‘Less Than Perfect’ finds the band members in a series of funny, awkward and altogether unexpected scenarios, as a light-hearted play on the song’s lyrical theme. As guitarist Adam Todd observes, “There’s a bit of party in our songs, no matter what the subject matter is.”

Along with the new single release, The Spook School have also announced that they will tour North America early next year with American alt-rock duo Diet Cig. You can find a full listing of The Spook School’s upcoming tour dates on their official Web site. TWatch the new video for ‘Less than Perfect’ just below. TGTF’s previous coverage of The Spook School is collected back here.

 

Video of the Moment #2450: The Spook School

 
By on Thursday, 12th October 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

Scottish alt-pop quartet The Spook School have unveiled a brand new single as a preview of their upcoming third LP, which is due out at the beginning of next year. The album, titled ‘Could It Be Different?’, is expected to be released on the 26th of January 2018 via Alcopop! / Slumberland Records, and the first song to be released from it is called ‘Still Alive’.

The Spook School’s infectiously upbeat alt-pop sound has perhaps a slight bit more edge to it in ‘Still Alive’ than what we’ve heard from them in the past, especially in its mischievously gleeful chorus line “fuck you, I’m still alive”. The new video is deliberately kitschy and facetious, but lead singer Nye Todd describes the song itself to DIY as being “a pretty angry song, with with that anger being directed at people that carry out abusive behaviours towards others.”

The Spook School will spend most of October on tour in Europe and the UK with American alt-rock duo Diet Cig; you can find the details on their official Facebook. TGTF’s previous coverage of The Spook School, including an interview from SXSW 2016, is collected right back here.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: Scottish artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Thursday, 9th March 2017 at 11:00 am
 

In past years, we have gone through peaks and troughs with respect to the number of Scottish acts who come out to showcase at SXSW. I’m pleased to announce that as of the time of this posting, 13 acts are scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017, the largest number in recent memory. The summaries of acts below were written by Steven Loftin, except where noted. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

Be Charlotte – pop / Dundee
What pop music sounds like when it comes from Dundee: that’s Be Charlotte. You find yourself drawn in by the obviously melodic, yet also cacophonous music, and you stay for the vocals that cut through and have an incredibly strong Scottish accent that for reason enthralls you. Or maybe that’s just me.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoCMTVDW04k[/youtube]

Catholic Action – pop / Glasgow
Catchy indie pop that has an alluring rawness, as if you’re listening to a band in a bedroom rather than a reasonably established DIY band. Their track ‘Rita Ora’ – yep, an ode to Rita Ora – is catchy, swift and poppy. What more could you want?

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86kSAB23nDY[/youtube]

C. Macleod – singer/songwriter / Stornoway
If I had to fathom a guess, someone with name C. Macleod isn’t looking to make a big splash. Instead, this Stornoway native is all about careful, thoughtful songcraft. A driving, Springsteen-esque feel pervades his debut single ‘Dream’, feeling less loner and more expansive than you’d expect from a native of the Isle of Lewis. FFO: Bruce Springsteen, The National, The War on Drugs (Mary Chang)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2c7UiN8-5E[/youtube]

Elle Exxe – pop / London via Edinburgh
Listed as ‘dirty pop’, that’s definitely the best way to describe Elle Exxe (pictured at top). There’s a distinct edge to her music that doesn’t fall in line with your ‘paint-by-numbers’ pop formula. An attitude that is where Charli XCX should’ve been heading toward, she’ll be a household name by 2018. We called it first. Check out Rebecca’s review of Elle’s debut album ‘Love Fuelled Hate’ from last autumn through here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd9si_HbBtI[/youtube]

Happy Meals – synthpop / Glasgow
Lewis Cook and Suzanne Rodden comprise Happy Meals, a disco-leaning synthpop band based in Glasgow. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t disco in the style of Donna Summer or other tunes spun at Studio 54. Their minimalist yet space age-y style of dance, accompanied by Rodden’s vocals sometimes in English, sometimes French, adds to the eclectism. I will bet you that you will hear no-one else like Happy Meals in Austin in March. (Mary Chang)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7tHtbaQN7s[/youtube]

PAWS – punk / Glasgow
Some more of that home bred punk rock. PAWS are another band who are going from strength to strength with a raw, melodic sound. SXSW should see them take Texas by storm, especially after the release of their third full length last year.

Pinact – punk / Glasgow
Back with even more punk for SXSW, Pinact are on the louder and harsher side of the spectrum. Pleasing but still with an edge that means your parents won’t like it, they’re another Scottish band who take the angst that is apparently rife there and execute it like all your favourites do.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSfC_9HrhxQ[/youtube]

The Pooches – pop / Glasgow
Glasgow’s Pooches create some beautiful guitar pop that never fails to leave you satisfied. Releasing their self-titled debut late last year, the band aren’t afraid of sticking out of the crowd with their wry yet upbeat pop sound.

Sam Gellaitry – electronic / Stirling
Already signed to XL Records, a powerhouse of a label in the indie world, Sam Gellaitry knows his way around a beat or two. He takes that urban London feeling, which you may or may not be familiar with, and crafts it into easy listening electronic tracks.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7W4t0ClwDg[/youtube]

Spinning Coin – psych rock / Glasgow
You guessed it, another Glaswegian band. They do it well up in Scotland, birthing bands that craft sounds that somehow give none of the fucks while simultaneously giving them all. Keeping it DIY, they released their debut 7″ last year and have no intentions of stopping there. Not to mention their apparently visceral live show, what’s not to love?

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLanmgLzEno[/youtube]

The Spook School – pop / Edinburgh
The kind of band to not take themselves too seriously while ensuring they keep a solid message in their tunes (see: ‘Burn Masculinity’). With a sound that’s a mixture between indie and DIY punk, there’s no bells and whistles, which completely suits their styling down to the ground. [Having appeared at SXSW last year, we sincerely hope this time they bring suncream. -Ed.]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGGj5_7dx0o[/youtube]

The Van T’s – surf rock / Glasgow
Cleverly made up of two twins, Charlotte and Hannah Van Thompson, along with Joanne Forbes and Shaun Hood, The Van T’s are a part of Glasgow’s burgeoning and bustling rock scene. Surf pop/rock ‘n’ roll might not be game changing but it sure is fun. [Sadly, we’ve received word that The Van T’s will not be showcasing in Austin this year. – Ed.]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAe7wJK_SXQ[/youtube]

 

PAWS / June and July 2016 UK Tour

 
By on Wednesday, 22nd June 2016 at 9:00 am
 

Glasgow indie rock trio PAWS will head out on a full headline tour of the UK this week, accompanied by fellow Scottish indie pop band The Spook School. The tour is set to begin with four shows in Scotland and will include a London date on Saturday the 2nd of July. PAWS released their third album ‘No Grace’ last Friday the 17th of June via FatCat Records; you can watch the video for its title track just below the tour date listing.

Tickets for the following shows are available now. Click here to find TGTF’s previous coverage of PAWS, including editor Mary’s live review from back in 2014. Our recent coverage of The Spook School at SXSW 2016 is right back here.

Wednesday 22nd June 2016 – Dundee Conroy’s Bar
Thursday 23rd June 2016 – Aberdeen Lemon Tree
Friday 24th June 2016 – Edinburgh Summerhall
Saturday 25th June 2016 – Glasgow Stereo
Sunday 26th June 2016 – York Fullford Arms
Monday 27th June 2016 – Liverpool Studio 2
Tuesday 28th June 2016 – Leicester Musician
Wednesday 29th June 2016 – Manchester Soup Kitchen
Thursday 30th June 2016 – Leeds Headrow House
Friday 1st July 2016 – Bristol Start The Bus
Saturday 2nd July 2016 – London Moth Club
Sunday 3rd July 2016 – Brighton Hope & Ruin
Monday 4th July 2016 – Birmingham Hare & Hounds

[youtube]https://youtu.be/-fMr1DGkdD0[/youtube]

 

CMW 2016: Music is Great Britain UK Trade and Investment showcase Saturday night – 7th May 2016

 
By on Thursday, 26th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

You know that phrase, “loud enough to wake the dead”? Saturday night at Canadian Music Week 2016 may not have been all that loud, but it was definitely the most crowded night out in town, with plenty of locals out and about to lend a party atmosphere. It sure was very cold and windy, making me wonder whilst wearing my hat and gloves if the dearly departed residents of St. James’ church cemetery near my accommodation for the week were rattling around in their graves.

When it comes to the elements, I consider myself reasonably hearty stock if dressed appropriately, having faced wind and driving rain in my face on many occasions in the UK. However, following along in a theme that has repeated in most everywhere in North America this spring, it was just too damn cold Saturday night. In stark contrast, I saw The Spook School play an early set at the Garrison that afternoon when it was sunny and bright, and I had wished we could have bottled that poppy sunniness and used an atomizer over the entire chilly week of CMW 2016.

The Spook School CMW 2016 Garrison Saturday

My plans for the last night of CMW 2016 would take place solely and in one of the nicer clubs in all of Toronto. Velvet Underground on Queen Street would be seeing out the festival in style, thanks to a ‘Music is Great Britain’-branded showcase put on by UK Trade and Investment. The first two bands on the bill are friends of TGTF; the other two, well, you’ll have to read on.

As a rule, TGTF does not condone skipping school for the sake of music. However, we’re going to give The Orielles a wide berth, as they arrived in Toronto as close as humanly possible to play their first show during CMW while catching as much school as they could before they left. I understand they had finals to return to after; I hope the adrenaline off their first North American music festival saw the band through them.

The Orielles CMW 2016 Velvet Underground Saturday UK Trade and Investment

While they played, excited whispers abounded all around me. “They’re how old?” “And they can play *that* well?” “When did you discover them?” “Liverpool Sound City?” “No, 2013?” “Seriously???” “How old are they again???” Opening the UKTI showcase might well have been ample cause for anxiety, but the young yet experienced in gigs trio from Halifax came out with tune after tune. The Orielles’ first North American appearance was a triumph in every sense of the word, impressing industry and punters alike with their energetic garage and surf-tinged performance.

The People The Poet CMW 2016 Velvet Underground Saturday UK Trade and Investment

The People The Poet, now SXSW veterans after showcasing back to back in 2015 and 2016, were up next. From the surfy, psych vibe created by the Orielles, the Welsh band brought things back squarely to good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. The vocals of frontman Leon Stanford – growly, emphatic and Joe Cocker-esque – are a force to be reckoned with on their own. But accompanied by the band’s driving instrumentation with the anthemic glow of any Springsteen number worth its salt, the complete package of The People The Poet provide a formidable punch. Check out recent single ‘Club 27’ below.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fKgiJdlA3c[/youtube]

Very early on in my CMW 2016 schedule preparation, I’d pencilled in The Undivided for my last night in Toronto. I’d gone through the profiles of all the UK bands headed out to the festival, and I had been most impressed with the oomph of ‘Invincible’. I fully felt the emotions of this band, displayed on their sleeve for all to see. It was a feeling I’d experienced 2 years ago at Liverpool Sound City when faced with Geordies Boy Jumps Ship for the first time. (They’ve just released their debut album this month, and I couldn’t have been prouder of and happier for them.) When you listen to the power of their music and lyrics together, you just know this means an awful lot to every member of the band. Even more weirdly coincidental, both of these bands’ names suggest an inclusionary, “all for one, one for all” mentality that is comforting in this crazy world we live in.

The Undivided CMW 2016 Velvet Underground Saturday UK Trade and Investment

The Welsh band released their latest EP ‘Satellites’ on the 6th of May when we were all out in Toronto, so I hadn’t had a chance to listen to it. It’s on Spotify now, and it’s good stuff. This is loud, fast-paced rock with plenty of heart, and you should do yourself the favour of checking them out now. You know, before they hit it big and I say in a smug tone “I told you so” to your face.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wtcZhHSwWk[/youtube]

I have gotten onboard with Slaves and have been known to sing along – loudly – to ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie’. However, I have to admit that I still haven’t quite figured out the appeal of Fat White Family. Is it the camp posturing of Lias Saoudi that gets people hot and bothered? Is it the spitting? Is it the sleaze of ‘Touch the Leather’? Or is it just the anarchic feel of their brand of punk? Of all the bands at the UKTI showcase, they brought in the biggest crowd of the night. Is that a commentary on the music lovers of Toronto? Let’s hope not.

Fat White Family CMW 2016 Velvet Underground Saturday UK Trade and Investment

I left Velvet Underground with the same feeling I had closing out what will probably be my final Sound City in 2014. What was I missing about this hugely hyped band? A few weeks out now from my first CMW, I have come to the acceptance yet again that as they say, there’s no accounting for taste. TGTF will continue to do what we’ve always done: champion the little guy and the music that moves us. And we appreciate you all – bands and fans alike – being along with us for the ride.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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