Second album from Edinburgh’s ‘queer-trans-punk’ agitators is a thrill both sensory and cerebral: big tunes, big ideas. A tender and compassionate document of our times, it brims with genuine heart and soul while mercilessly torching the bullshit patriarchy and lazy gender norms of modern life. 2013 debut Dress Up set the scene for The Spook School‘s sophisticated mangling of classic indie pop shapes, but Try To Be Hopeful is a leap and a half.
Singer and guitarist Nye Todd began a testosterone programme during recording and he feared that changes in his voice would affect his ability to sing melodies written prior to treatment. No worries there. Its frothing, joyous harmonies are one of Try To Be Hopeful’s strongest suits, and pitched against a breathless backdrop of buzz-saw guitars (the fabulous Friday Night, where Anna Cory takes lead vocals, is prime Wedding Present) and breakneck beats, The Spook School’s artful reworking of the age-old makes for something unique and irresistible.
They’re equally compelling when they pause for breath, as on ‘August 17th‘ and the closing title track, which models the kind of ragged, lo-fi gospel last seen breaking hearts on Tilly and the Wall’s ‘The Ice Storm, Big Gust And You’. That good. “Sometimes I get so hopeful, I make myself scared / That I will wake up and the hope will disappear,” sings Todd, and suddenly it’s clear: song-writing as catharsis is still the best form of complementary medicine.