Could It Be Different
Slumberland Records, 2017
Review by Kent Manthie
“Could It Be Different”. That is the musical question posed by Spook School by way of the title to their new album, Could It Be Different. Well, to put it simply…yes. It could be different. How different? Let me count the ways (do you really want me to?). Or, better yet, why don’t you tell me, by writing your opinions to the Independent Review comments section. Then, I’d be able to point out to readers, not just the ways things might be better, but the suggestions posted from our loyal readers!
So, in getting to the meat of the matter, Spook School have just released their latest CD, on Slumberland records, which came out in December of 2017.
I received the new Spook School, which just hit the streets a few days ago, just before the holidays and,well, that was a really busy and rough time for me and it wasn’t merely xmas shopping which bogged me down.
Natives of Glasgow, Scotland, Spook School, after some personal difficulties, finally succeeded in getting their third album, Could It Be Different out to their public. I guess the title, Could It Be Different is a sort of rhetorical question in reference to the character of their hometown and its do-or-die ethic. Singer/guitarist, Nye Todd put it quite pithily in this comment, “You’re comfortable with yourself, as much as you ever can be but you have to live with that person anyway,” Nye says of the record, “There are more questions than answers. That’s why the title works well—it has that insecurity to it.” Adam agrees, “It also comes from a place of feeling like everything definitely isn’t alright now,” pausing. “Maybe things could change?”
The album itself finds the school, after their initial debut, usually a “do-or-die” situation, as far as finding success or getting the brush and then, the sophomore effort which, depending on which way the wind blows, success-wise, for the band, either having to live up to the epic greatness of their debut or hoping to do it better the second time, which, in either case, can be a nerve-wracking effort. But, having done well on both counts, this album, Could It Be Different, which, the more you know about the band and what they’ve been doing, artistically and otherwise, over the past couple years, the more apt it seems, as a title. This time, album number three finds the Scottish quartet basking in a glow of optimism which carries over into the music on the album.
Opening with the “soon to be crowd favorite” (more of that trinitized optimism), “Still Alive”, they throw their indie-dance-pop weight around with the effervescent, yet definitive anthemic chorus of “fuck you, I’m still alive”, just in case anyone had any doubts on the subject. The song, “Still Alive”, though, is actually a song Todd penned as a kind of catharsis after enduring a wreck of a relationship; toxic and emotionally abusive, Todd purposely avoided an angst-filled, dirge-like “life sucks”-kind of song, instead aiming for a more positivist approach. Instead of dredging up and setting fire to this awful wreck of a relationship, he decided to leave that all behind and celebrate his current existence as well as be hopeful about the future, inexorably unknowable and, as every minute that passes is, by definition “the future”, take this optimistic, hopefully, pleasantly ever-evolving newness that can be exciting to one who has a positive outlook and can and is working for the best.
The other members of Spook School, before I forget, are Anna Cory, who plays bass and sings, Nye’s brother(?) Adam, also on guitar and vocals as well as drummer Niall McCamley.
A few songs worth mentioning here include the forward-looking, simple plan, “Best of Intentions”, the naked honesty of “Less Than Perfect”, the intelligent dance-pop soon-to-be-at-your-local dance-club, “I Only Dance When I Want To” and the closing number “High School”, no doubt, a time that many of us, though it might’ve been the best years of our lives, is also a time which, as great as it was or, as horrible and dreadful as it was, in which case you’d like to have as little memory of it as possible, but for the former, though you miss it dearly, you know in your heart that there’s no going back; that besides the fact that time is necessarily a forward-moving arrow, only capable of moving in one direction, not unlike the current of a river, you still know that the best you can do is to cling to the good memories and not let the bad ones drag you down as well as take the experiences you’ve had, learn from them, yes, you may feel you’ve already done that, but keep digging through that conscious archaeology and keep studying all you excavate.
One other thought on Could It Be Different: the fact that the album just came out, so soon after the new year and having been finished just as 2017 was coming to a close suggests (maybe) a choice to utilize the material on the album as a sort of new year’s resolution…and beyond. So, keep on dancing and keep those minds open!!
For more information on Spook School check out their page on the Slumberland Records website, http://www.slumberlandrecords.com/catalog/show/315 -KM.