LIVE: The Spook School / Peaness @ Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

By Tom Walsh

Have you ever taken a moment to truly appreciate the beauty of Linda McCartney sausages? Have you ever noticed how they effortlessly balance out a delicious vegetarian full English breakfast? Have you ever been amazed at just how utterly delicious they are in a sandwich bathed in tomato sauce? If the answer to all of these questions is ‘yes’, then you and The Spook School are going to get on.

The Glaswegian four-piece spend long sections of tonight’s gig waxing lyrical about the wide array of vegetarian morsels brought into the world by the late animal rights’ activist. Their affection for these meat substitute meals is only stopped by delivering a mix of bouncy, uplifting, poignant and, at moments, tender bursts of joyful indie.

At a time when the world seems an ultimately dark place, The Spook School’s hour-long set provides a shining light. They confront the demons in our society from the poisonous atmosphere of Brexit, the continued stigma around gender-binarism and the challenges faced by the LGBTQI community, by creating a show which celebrates every single aspect of diversity.

This is an environment where everyone can feel comfortable in their own skin and enjoy one of the most exciting bands in the underground indie scene. And it is, of course, somewhere where they can freely express their love for Linda McCartney sausages.

Prior to The Spook School’s opening eulogy about their favourite vegetarian foods, Chester three-piece, and Alcopop! Records label mates Peaness make their bow. In a half-hour set the trio blend melodic lo-fi indie rock with pitch perfect harmonies and uplifting lyrics on how we should all quit our jobs. They delve into tracks from their impressive debut EP ‘No Fun’ and the equally delightful ‘Are You Sure?’ to deliver a charming hook-filled performance.

Continuing the love-in with all things Linda McCartney, the lights dim and the strains of Wings’ ‘Live and Let Die’ signal The Spook School’s arrival. Their enigmatic drummer Niall McCamley assumes the role of compere for the evening, welcoming the audience to what he expects to be the most special of recitals, before smashing straight into opener ‘I’m Still Alive’.

Dressed in matching PE kits, and looking like the cast of Fame, the quartet fly through tracks plucked from their latest album ‘Could It Be Different?’. There is an excitable energy that transfers from band to audience, freeing everyone from the inhibitions of outside. Between McCamley’s occasional monologues, guitarist Nye Todd speaks of knocking down the curse of misogyny, introducing the stomping ‘Burn Masculinity’.

Among the foot-to-the-throttle pace of the show, there are moments of reflection evidenced in the tender ‘Keep In Touch’, an almost ballad-like ode to lost relationships, while ‘Binary’ talks of being able to accept who you are even if nobody else does. In the midst of such a joyous and fun-filled performance these moments provide a beautiful poignancy.

Next they perfectly slot in McCamley’s comedy routine, where he speaks of his dream of becoming a wedding band because “now that’s where the big bucks are”. The drummer continues to plaster smiles across the faces of band and audience alike, giving a knowing wink to an ensuing encore after closer ‘Body’.

The Spook School do have one little surprise left up their sleeves as they implore their delighted public to join hand-in-hand and raise a lighter aloft for their own version of Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’. Who, though, offers them protection, a little love and affection, whether they’re right or wrong? Well, Linda McCartney of course, as they serenade us with a chorus of “I’m loving Linda’s, instead”.