They often say that music can make the world more bearable. I have used music to get through existence and the several spanners in the works that having anxiety disorder brings up. It’s an all-pervasive thing, this mental health disorder, affecting everything from how it feels walking down the street, to how you think, to your skin erupting in red, itchy anger.
The current global pandemic has seen a rise in mental health issues thanks to the uncertainty of the times. It’s both business as usual and change as I deal with my longstanding anxiety and the new aspects arising from Coronavirus life. One thing that helps is the album A Home Away From Home by Blank Spaces, a group transplanted via London to New York City, with Daniel Gallagher as lead singer, guitarist, and lyricist. It’s been a fixture ever since its May 2020 release, giving me a grounding point in the uncertainty of the time.
Songs offer many perspectives – that of their creator and that of the audience. ‘Note To Self’, the first track of the album is a case in point. Describing perfectly the listless ennui of sitting at home lacking motivation and the mental block that comes as a result, opening with the lines “Note to self, staring at the wall, waiting for something, for something to happen.”
I have come to regard it as something like a small anthem the last several months, being agoraphobic, needing to go out, not being able to, and struggling when I do because I have lost the previous desensitisation I had before. It puts to music the frustrations I feel and playing it gives a level of comfort as the feelings it describes also lend a voice to my own experiences clambering the wall with both my longstanding anxiety and the newly acquired facets that have developed as a result of Covid 19 anxiety. The song was written before the pandemic, for Gallagher, it describes his attempts to motivate himself out of the monotony of daily life.
The album also touches on the political side, giving vent to the emotions of living in what feels like a despotic world thanks to those who have had their hands on the major powers in the last few years. Any songs borne from the austerity of Conservative Britain and Trump America may make you think instantly of a nihilistic nightmare. ‘Sharpen Their Knives’ is, however, disarmingly chipper, its lyrics describing the manipulation, greed, and malignancy of these leaders, how they drag people in and use them for their own ends. Dark stuff indeed, but there is also a hope that we aren’t all doomed to be fodder for 21st century Machiavellians.
We can still own our future. It’s a song not far from my own heart. The times I’ve looked at the news, social media discussion, the manipulation put out by both Trump and the Conservative governments and felt despair are countless. This isn’t just politics that floats over me with no personal impact as some people tell me. I have been affected badly at several points over the last few years and it has made me ill, disrupted my life, and had me a frothing ball of stress and fear. I’ve had friends crumble to pieces in America because of who is President and seen them post online about finding themselves suddenly living in riot zones, with the police and national guard shooting at civilians protesting. Opening the front door instantly became a little too deadly. Yet, despite all that, I still maintain a hope that it will turn and we have a future ahead. As Daniel Gallagher sings in ‘Sharpen Their Knives: “The future is all yours, don’t go easy on your enemies.”
‘Sedition’ is an even darker affair. It too covers the themes already mentioned above but is even more powerful in not giving up hope in a screwed up world. This one feels particularly American lyrically, though there are aspects that can also be applied to the UK. The world was already terrifying, but having these particular people in charge during a pandemic have made it horrific. The plea in this song not to give up, to “Hold on, hold on to your dreams,” is one that I especially cling to when I find myself in the seemingly hopeless iron grip of insomnia, stress, and anxiety.
We don’t where we’re going with this pandemic at the end of the day, both on a level of general existence nor with whatever politicians wind up trying to lead us through. There is talk that the music industry is dead from it. However, Blank Spaces has shown with an album released during lockdown conditions, despite the obstacles we face, we can’t give up no matter what.
A Home Away From Home is available on Bandcamp