Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Album Review - The Spook School - Dress Up

The idea of making happy 60s pop songs with a proper 70s punk twist sounds like something that just shouldn't work, even on paper.  Alas, Edinburgh based four piece, The Spook School do just that, with some other genre experimenting thrown in just for fun.

Their debut record Dress Up is an ace collection of three-chorded, three-minute bursts of vibrant indie pop delights and, to be quite honest, it's pretty impossible to hate or even remotely dislike a band that can pull that off to the extent that they do.  You'll no doubt find yourself involuntarily tapping your foot along to the bass drum of opener Are You Who You Think You Are, and from then on, each body part will become subsequently more uncontrollable than the last.

I'll Be Honest had previously been released as a double A-side single, making it a solid fan favourite prior to the album's release, and rightly so, with its carefree, relentless melodies and catchy sing-along chorus.  Nye Todd's distinctive voice is sure to become instantly recognisable in years to come as this debut record gives them a well deserved boost on the Scottish music scene.  Meanwhile brother Adam has a bit more of a punky swagger about his vocals, especially during the likes of I Don't Know and oppositely titled You Don't Know.

But where there is this hyperactive, dizzy-on-lemonade indie punk rock side to The Spook School's music, sometimes they do calm things down a little and show their softer side on tracks such as You Make It Sound So Easy which has some fantastic lead vocals from the band's Anna Cory, as well as the insightful and atmospheric Something, almost serving as breathers between the more crazy moments.

Things get a bit more manic once again on the lengthy titled, Can You Ever Trust A Man Who Thinks Matt Damon's Really Cool?, which even has a fantastic, post-rock, almost sleazy breakdown, with Adam giving us his best Frank Black impression as he waxes lyrical before the band break into a heavy riff.  Let's be honest, after that first half, we're now thinking, "what the hells going on here?".  Who knew such an otherwise sugary sweet band that brought us the likes of indie pop gem The Cameraman, could pull such a phat riff? Then in another genre twist, there's Devil of Mine which explores deeper lyrics with a bit of a folky feel to it which builds to almost anthemic proportion.

If The Spook School teach you anything with this debut (see what I did there?) it's that the genre of pop is far more versatile than we give it credit for, and they prove this by bending and stretching it in so many different ways whilst maintaining a great signature sound and producing great results every time.  At first, it's easy to assume Dress Up is just a quirky name for a quirky record by a quirky band.  After hearing the album straight through, it becomes clear that it's more of an instruction.  This record is packed full of great songs, the type to get everyone dancing and partying.  So get your gladrags on and have at it.

- Nina Glencross

The Spook School - Dress Up is out now via FortunaPOP on vinyl or CD.  The album can also be download on iTunes.

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