To quote Emma in her recent evaluation of Lorde’s new album; ‘There’s something vaguely irritating about successful people your age’. In the case of Declan Mckenna, he’s even younger than me at the ripe old age of 18, and he has already established himself as a credible rock & roll musician. He first emerged on to the scene in 2015, when he won Glastonbury Festival’s ‘Emerging Talent Competition’ which earned him a slot on one of the supporting stages at the festival. He returned to Glastonbury this year, where he absolutely killed the John Peel stage, famous for bringing fresh-faced artists into the light. Now, on his debut album, What Do You Think About the Car?, young Mr Mckenna has bravely used his vocal platform to sing about the warped and twisted society in which we live. If you would care to scroll down a little further and extend your procrastination session by a few more minutes, I shall tell you more about it and why it is 100% worth your time.
I’ll cut to Hecuba, much like our good ol’ pals Kate Tempest and Loyle Carner (we do listen to other artists we promise), McKenna’s lyrics manage to speak for a generation whilst also remaining touchingly personal. From the questionable ethics of religion in Bethlehem, to the tragic effects of misrepresenting the LGBT community in Paracetamol, it’s a gutsy debut album with regards to its themes but without the cringe factor of a charity Christmas single. Not that Band Aid’s single isn’t a lovely idea, I just wouldn’t consider it as one of my ‘jams’. However, listening to McKenna’s indie-pop rock anthems, with their uplifting organised catastrophe, I can really get in to his old-school rock & roll sound. With little modern twists in the production here and there, you can’t help but associate them with the similar air of rebellion that was brewing in the punk rock revolution of the 70s.
To me, Brazil stands out as the track of the album, with McKenna’s voice jumping up and down over his slightly retro guitar style. And, even though it sounds like the ultimate summer festival sing-along, the lyrics are far from celebratory. The song protests against FIFA and the corruption that surrounded the World Cup in 2014. McKenna calls out Sepp Blatter, singing ‘He got eyes, but he can’t see / Well he talks like an angel but he looks like me’. The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home and Humongous carry a similarly strong message, this time in response to the younger generation’s exclusion from the world of politics, which, call me clueless when it comes to political shenanigans, but I can envisage this will strike a chord with a fair few young’uns. And yet, like the rest of his album, they are not mopey in the slightest. Its quirky dance-ability is full of the spirit and optimism that is the spark of our generation – something that needs to be celebrated.
So hats off to you, Declan Mckenna. Not only can you pull off a healthy dosage of face glitter with total panache, but you have also granted me the opportunity to smile and dance through songs whilst also being able to tune in to societal issues.
Catch him at Reading and Leeds Festival this Summer if you’re there, and let us all boogie with a purpose this Summer.