I didn’t realise how much I needed a new Boy & Bear album til Suck on Light arrived. It’d been four years since Limit of Love came out, and I’d grown concerned that there’d never be another Boy & Bear album. There was a reason for the delay, lead Dave Hosking went through his own illness, one that was long undiagnosed, but eventually was found to be Chronic Dysbiosis – an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. What this lead to was Hosking’s requirement to have a ‘poo roadie’ to help keep his gut in balance. In one of the most honest and open discussions about health, Hosking talked about his diagnosis and the treatment he needs, and by doing so, he helped break down the stigma about men talking about their own bodies and their own health. If someone can talk publicly about needing someone to help them by donating their faeces to keep them healthy, then that could give many others the strength they need to talk to their friends and family about their own health issues.
Part of why the title track, Suck on Light, works so well is the way it works as a triumphant celebration of getting a diagnosis. For many who live with mental or physical illnesses, the absence of a diagnosis can create an immense amount of stress and pressure. After all, how can you treat something that you don’t have a name for? I am lucky to know that I live with anxiety and depression, but for the many out there who don’t know what plagues their minds and bodies, I can’t help but understand the foggy path that they must lead.
The way Hosking writes about illness and difficulties is done in the most wonderful way. The way he manages to distill the day to day of living with an illness into a short phrase like you gotta suck on light is stunning. The first time I heard Suck on Light, I wept. He says so much with so little. This is a proudly empathetic song, one that comes from a place of understanding and knowing, and it’s part of the reason why the music of Boy & Bear has been so immensely important for me. I’m beyond happy that they’re back, and happy that Hosking is doing ok.
It’s a sober sight
Your knuckles bared and white
It’s the flicker on the front line from a candle light
It’s the appetite
You gotta suck on light
And stand ya ground
So sue me I had a change of heart
I used to think that I could justify the waste of time it’s only mine
But I’m yet to find a vivid life without it
New Normal – Horrorshow
Both Adit Gauchan and Nick Bryant-Smith have had personal tragedies in their lives since the last Horrorshow album. They’ve always filled their songs with themes about mental health, about looking out for one another, about looking out for yourself, so New Normal is no different. They talked to The Guardian about what the path to this album was like, and it’s well worth a read.
When tragedy strikes, or an illness is diagnosed, then the overpowering cloud of ‘what next’ comes like a thunderstorm. It’s easy for that feeling to overwhelm you just as much as the instigating event did, but as New Normal reassures, remember the good in the past, and become comfortable with the ‘new normal’ of the future. Adjusting to life without someone around, or to living with anxiety or depression, is like having to accept having an unwelcome roommate in your house. You didn’t invite them in, they just appeared one day and no matter how hard you try, you have to accept that they’re going to be there for good.
And maybe there’ll be set backs and broken dams, days when things don’t go to plan
Tell me what’s your coping strategy?
‘Cause baby don’t forget there’s no going back, make the most of what we have
Through the triumph and the tragedy
We pray for better days and learn while we wait
They may never come, nothing’s guaranteed
We do it anyway, accepting the fate
Meant for us is the one it has to be
Still one by one we come from nothing, tryna make it something
Knowing that we can’t take that something when we turn to nothing
The whole song is a quiet nudge, an encouragement to get through today to get through tomorrow. Horrorshow recognise the difficult days, the black days that you think you can’t go on, that you can’t get up and face anything, but then they ask, what’s your coping strategy? and right away, you’re reminded by the need to use mindfulness, to meditate and to centre yourself. Use what you have near you to get through the day. Hold onto the positives and cherish them for the dark moments.
And for me, New Normal is the deepest reminder of the power of music to help you out with your mental illnesses. Horrorshow know this, as they wrap up the song with the most empathetic lyrics they’ve ever written:
So if you’re out there fighting battles in your head
Waking up to mornings when it’s a struggle to make it out of bed
Let this be your reminder, there’ll be better daze ahead
I dedicate this album to you, you know who you are
For the journeys still before us and the stories behind your scars
Be brave, be strong
Persist, persevere, believe
That’s all any of us can do
Hopefully these songs help you on your journey with mental illness. If you need assistance, know that there is always help out there, and there is always someone there to help you, even if you feel like there is no one.
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