Album Review: Boy & Bear – Suck On Light

Ten years since the release of their debut album, Australian folk frontrunners Boy & Bear are back with their fourth studio album Suck On Light. After being forced into an involuntary hiatus following lead singer Dave Hosking’s battle with serious illness, the band are back with what they are coining their ‘finest album to date’.

Suck On Light is a unique album in that the lyrics are less about love and heartbreak than a frank look at Hosking’s health struggles over the last few years. The future of the band was thrown into question, the band have not released new music for four years – discussing illness and the effect that it has had on the musicians was almost an inevitable decision; the experience has led to an organic sounding product, unforced, at ease, interesting.

‘In a strange way it’s beautiful, if you can understand, in the desert you don’t survive, unless you learn to eat the sand’ Hosking sings in ‘BCS’, the penultimate song on the twelve track album. Hosking comments on the beauty of overcoming his struggles at the end of the record, while Suck On Light opens with a much less romantic tone. In the title track the singer comments ‘my world was on fire and there was nothing I could do, to persuade the wrongs to right themselves… I was in a real dire state’. There is nothing subtle about this lyricism, this Sydney quintet have had a shit time and they are talking about it, it’s refreshing.

There are peaks and troughs throughout the record. It is by no means a cry me a river piece. There is light and shade and the honesty enables the listener invest in the journey immediately.

Musically the record is very much in keeping with Boy & Bear’s previous works. Warm, encapsulating, layered – their trademark sound flourishes on the record. A little darker at times, slightly more experimental than their previous works but certainly a continuation of the theme. There are nods to everyone from The Beatles to Tame Impala yet with Hosking’s voice as rich and dazzling as ever, the work is distinctly and profoundly, theirs.

As the nights get longer and the temperature gets colder Suck On Light is definitely an album to add to the evening listening list. The work is authentic and thoroughly enjoyable. The band have had a bad time and have come back fighting. We look forward to seeing lots more of them again soon.

Jessica Newsome