“Why do you hate pop?”
“You’re such a critic, you hate anything that is good fun”
“You only like obscure stuff nobody else likes”
“Nobody actually listens to the stuff you like”
“You just pretend to like all that stuff to seem cool”
You miserable little commenting bastards; I’m double checking right now that I can’t explode people’s heads with my will, because I’d hate to find out later that I could and think I missed the opportunity to use it on you. I like pop! I like the Killers [‘ first album], I like Marina and the Diamonds [‘ first album] and I even think Lady GaGa’s post-Madonna sub-Bowieism has a certain sumthin’ sumthin’ if she could just wear jeans and a teeshirt sometime. If someone pressed me, the pop album I like most at the moment is Edinburgh’s own Spook School and their 2013 debut Dress Up. They have just enough pop pop, while maintaining a perfect Sense of Place with a tangible back-of-the-bike-sheds charm. If you were a Scottish teenager in the early noughties, you already know these songs, you just need to pick up the album. If you weren’t, it’s merely essential.
I was a teenager in the early noughties, shite as they were. I was extraordinarily ordinary student at an exceptionally unexceptional school; naturally, I was the centre of the universe. My neurotic pain, angst and lonliness were the most awful yet experienced by anyone. The utter indifference with which women regarded me was some sort of precursor for my whole life, not just exactly what was happening to everyone. Everyone else appeared to be happier, healthier, thinner, funnier and enjoy things. And when I got dumped I was basically Marlon Brando from Apocalypse Now. Natch, I’ve learned since none of that was actually true, and if ‘school is the best days of your life’ then you’re probably one of those boorish A* snobs who is now selling BMWs in the town you were born. Ha, jokes on you. I’m an anonymous internet guttersnipe with pennies to his name. The songs of Spook School are beautiful, resonant and bouncingly fun. Ballads about whether the person you harbour incredibly poorly concealed feelings for will be at the party on Friday, or the posters on your bedroom wall; deeply touch something about the time in all our lives when these things were life. There’s something in the combination of the rhythmic phrasing and almost Dylanesque saying-everything-by-saying-nothing lyricism of “I know you’re not coming out tonight/I’ll try my best not to put up a fight/ You make it sound so easy but I/ Live in a world where coffee makes me high so/ I can’t tear my eyes away”. Maybe because I remember when coffee used to give me a kick, but also all those feelings, and thinking that statements were deep, when they were as shallow as a spoon.
Spook School should be recommended listening (along with Siouxsie and the Banshees) for all high-school age kids. As so much of the media is fixated on making you feel alone, Dress Up will make you feel understood, if even for the tiniest moment. For the rest of us, Spook School are the Cure for What Ails Us because they are fun. Remember that? Fun? The thing we used to have before life became a hellish Machiavellian nightmare of overpriced Cornettos, sexual disappointment, persistently alive Jesus Freaks, Justin Bieber and wasps? It’s of the here and now, because it hits that gently nihilistic period of adolescence and rings it like a bell. The time when Friday night was an age away, a tenner was a fortune and both Heineken and Haribo were available at parties. It’s simplistic poppy-doom aesthetic can’t last for more than an album, and as they grow up they will grow more deep and complex and that’ll be disastrous. I’d never give anyone else this advice but, Spook School you yappy self-obsessed microcosm, never get older.
Written on the bus by Steven.