Opening with the distinctive voice of Josie Long wrapped in squalls of guitar feedback and then launching into a fury-fuelled pop-punk number sums up the endearing dichotomy of Could It Be Different?. Sincere stand-up comedy tailed by a big ‘fuck you’ to an abusive relationship; The Spook School fashion optimism and laughter from pain and confusion. The third album from the Glasgow quartet is another charming chapter in the band’s discography and tackles traditionally tough topics (body autonomy, abusive relationships) with a lyrically deft hand and an ear for melodies. Translating intense emotion – be it love, regret, anger or excitement – into music as effectively as the group do here essentially remodels the album as a universal handbook for being a real-life human.
Being able to take negative experience and repaint it in shades of optimism and hope is an admirable quality and the band could fill skips with it. Tracks such as opener ‘Still Alive’ reaches giddy heights with charged guitars and brash vocal melodies. They’re as relentlessly buoyant as their bouncing basslines, with the majority of the album so infectiously inspiring that it’s impossible to resist. Angsty, all-absorbing crushes are captured with unflinching accuracy: ‘Alright’ is a head full of nothing else and a stomach full of butterflies, ignoring the threat of the outside world. Never admitting defeat, The Spook School are survivors with an unrivalled tenacity.
Read our thoughts on lead single ‘Still Alive’ here.
The heights they scale dig out a deep trench for the lower moments to sit in, which comfortably suits the gloomier moments of Could It Be Different?. ‘Bad Year’ needs no explanation other than a brief flick through a newspaper and, in an aside of self-awareness, they address their optimism head on: ‘I admire your optimism but sometimes I just need to feel it’. Luckily, it’s impossible to avoid the waves of hope which flood the majority of the album, in spite of dark material.
Fraught with an engaging honesty, Could It Be Different? safely continues the Spook School’s winning streak of albums. Matching infuriatingly catchy melodies, candid sincerity and a bucket full of scuzz, the 4-piece succeed in their mission of bringing hope to those that need it. The band are at the peak of their powers, effortlessly demonstrating how easy it is to discuss supposedly difficult topics – all you need is an arsenal of riffs and piles of goofy character. As the album comes to a melancholic close with ‘High School’, we’re posed with a difficult question: could it be different? Well, it would be nice to see a shift in the current climate, but the Spook School? They best not dare – they’re perfect as they are.
COULD IT BE DIFFERENT? RELEASES 26/01 VIA ALCOPOP!. PRE-ORDER HERE:
(Lead photo credit: Chris Belous)