LIKE most things in life, it’s probably Sting’s fault. Ever since he and his ‘80s brow-beating brethren began wagging their superstar fingers at the world, socially conscious rock has been regarded with suspicion.
The Spook School | Rating: **** | Nice ‘N’ Sleazy, Glasgow
Regardless of sincerity, an artist with ”something to say” risks being ridiculed as pretentious, self-righteous and dull.
The Spook School, who have plenty to say, are none of these things. They’re the anti-Sting, an appraisal they’re welcome to take to the grave.
An Edinburgh quartet who hadn’t even been conceived when their C86 forebears (The Shop Assistants et al) set the nerdy fuzz-pop template, their songs are preoccupied by sexual politics and the fluidity of gender. But whereas others might choose to explore these issues in an abrasive, self-conscious way, The Spook School never come across as preachy or earnest.
Their message is all the more effective – subversive, even – for being delivered in the guise of grinning, inclusive pop tunes. Every song is a compact explosion of contagious hooks powered by exuberant defiance, sensitivity and humour. They’re utterly charming.
Nye Todd, who identifies as transgender, trades gloriously wayward vocals and harmonies with his brother and fellow guitarist Adam, while bassist Anna Cory and drummer/hirsute Steven Toast clone Niall McCamley stoke a relentless adrenalin tempo.
What a joyous, touching noise.
Their current album is Try To Be Hopeful. Their first was Dress Up. Sting doesn’t own either of them. What more encouragement do you need?