Try to Be Hopeful
Reviewed by: Ziggy Merritt
The few overtly political or socially conscious albums that I’ve reviewed this year have all been emblematic of rowdy, queer punk anthems. Once largely hidden within the margins, the genre as a whole has been more recently reinvigorated with themes of intersectionality and how they interact with each other. While the broad range of these themes venture anywhere from police brutality to gender dysphoria too often the music itself takes a back seat to the message.
Here on the Spook School’s latest album, Try to Be Hopeful, there is a careful attention to the lyrics without the same sacrifice similar releases made in the construction of the music itself as was at least partially the case with the Worriers debut album that came out earlier this year. Some of this can be attributed to the dynamic sound of this release. At times it resembles the jangly lo-fi vibe cultivated at Sarah Records where in others it borrows and builds from the crowded school of their contemporaries such as the Cardiff noise-punk band, Joanna Gruesome or Laura Jane Grace with Against Me!
The tracks themselves are overt and bleed the confidence of a band that has tackled their respective battles against gender norms, male privilege, and harmful stereotyping all while coming out on top. Tracks like “Richard and Judy” and the lead single “Only Lovers” are all injected with a hopeful optimism that does not overtake the tongue-in-cheek lyrics that espouse the experiences listed above.
I’d like to think a lot of this comes from the collaborative songwriting where each member of the Spook School had something to contribute. There’s an inclusivity on this release that can only be achieved through a symbiotic friendship. Some evidence of this exists on the title and closing track of the album: “And I know that you’ve been upset. I know that I’m not the best but I’ll try.” After a brief repetition of the title, the lyrics are led out by uplifting wail of guitars, a send-off to the most recent album by a band still working to figure things out but reveling in the wonderful queerness of the moment.