Monday, 12 October 2015

Trying Not To Be Spooked Or Schooled

I have been the sole inhabitant on Planet Masala for some time now – Paul and Ani fled some time ago, and Fred is too busy playing with the cool kids to hang out in the basement (AKA life). That said, Fred still lurks around the Records side of things, and I always hope to entice him into doing the rare obtuse review. One of the first he did for Sonic Masala was for Edinburgh band The Spook School. They return this month with new record Try To Be Hopeful (out through Fire Records) and it stays true to form, offering cantankerous guitar pop that still focuses squarely on being different, and how that is awesome. Having thrashed things out in the bustling UK queer punk scene (which sees the likes of Teenage Caveman and As Ondas plying their trade), it is clear that the four-piece are just as indebted to Joanna Gruesome and C86 navel-gazing, especially on the buoyant noise that permeates hook-laden tracks like ‘Friday Night’. The album opens with ominous named ‘Burn Masculinity’, but isn’t as subversive and evasive as this may sound – it’s a blast. Yes, The Spook School is being more upfront lyrically when it comes to exploring sexual identity and how labels can be still so arduously constricting and caustic. This is evident in vocalist Nye Todd's physical presence too - going through a trans identity transference, which has seen his voice change over the course of the recording process. A true transformation in more ways than one, Try To Be Hopeful is ebullient, a joyous kicking out at the pricks and embracing of the awkward, the marginalised, and being proud of it. This is mostly encompassed by 'Binary', a propulsive rocker gem that questions gender norms and embraces the messiness of it all. I'm thinking that I'm hexadecimal, indeed.

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