Rarely, in recent memory, has there been a presence in the musical zeitgeist like Declan Mckenna. While examples of precious talent – particularly in the form of a young lady from New Zealand – can spring to mind when discussing the topic of artists cashing early on their touted promise, Declan Mckenna’s slew of releases in recent months and years has provided the most intimate and illuminating glimpse for a long while not into a vapid, insular, apathetic youth culture as the common stereotype would suggest, but one whose socio-political viewpoints are not only unmatched in their perceptiveness but irrepressible in their expression.
A Sky News interview aired in aid of breakout single ‘Brazil’ turned out to be the first brush-stroke of many that would paint the then 16-year-old as the discontented voice of a young generation. Written around the time of the World Cup in 2014, the second track on the album is a statement on the corruption of organising body FIFA. Its inclusion here is not only a reminder that this talent has been incubated and nurtured for longer than one may first realise, but is also one half of a two track opening which sets the stage for the simultaneously sly-and-winking and teeth-bearing satire that is yet to come on the record.
The other half, ‘Humongous’, serves as the present day to ‘Brazil”s flashback, opening the album with McKenna’s most recent rallying cry against the significance and indifference with which young people are burdened and landing the first punch in a one-two that spans the now 18-year-old’s entire musical chronology. It’s a cascading, insubordinate curtain-raiser.
‘The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home’ follows in a similar fashion, lamenting the sinister prospect of “kids with guns”, while ‘Mind’ sways along to an elusive not-quite-waltz, flippant and elusive as the song’s indecisive subject, whom McKenna implores to “make up your mind”.
As McKenna’s debut album continues to flow, it’s quite clear that this is a young man whose social awareness, biting satire and, above all, compassion knows no bounds.
From the treatment and popular discrimination of young people undergoing gender transitions with the twistedly sterile pop of the discombobulating ‘Paracetamol’, to the corrupting influence of religion in ‘Bethlehem’, it feels like there is nothing Declan McKenna won’t tackle, and someone with the platform to tell the world that other young people are just as impassioned has been a long time coming.
What Do You Think About The Car? does indeed provide a voice for an often muted generation. If previous releases gave us a glimpse into how passionate and aware young artists can be in terms of social issues, the full record makes clear in no uncertain terms that McKenna’s heart is at least as big as his musical and social appetite. One can only imagine how McKenna’s songs and writing will evolve in the next few years, but, whatever the case, in more ways than one, the future is looking very bright indeed.
Words by Ben Kitto
Declan McKenna’s What Do You Think About The Car? is out this Friday (July 21st) via Culumbia Records and is available to pre-order here.