A Little Bowie, a Little Beatles and a Ton of Ambition: Declan McKenna Shines with New Album ‘Zeros’


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Rock Cellar Magazine
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Declan McKenna is just 21 years old.

It’s important to remember that when listening to his new album, Zeros, which was released on Sept. 8. A sprawling, heavily themed album that brushes up against the influence of the Beatles, David Bowie and other legendary musical acts from decades before he was even alive, Zeros is a powerful statement of purpose and depth.

(Click here to pick up a copy of Zeros from our Rock Cellar Store).

“Beautiful Faces” was the album’s lead single, and its music video works as a perfect introduction for the album’s themes of the creep of technology and our confusing current reality:

“The Key to Life on Earth,” another hit single from the record, received a music video co-starring Alex Lawther of Black Mirror and the edgy Netflix series The End of the F***ing World, and it’s also quite jarring in its overall tone:

Enthusiasm for the English singer/songwriter has been brewing for years, which is saying a lot given his age. His meteoric rise began in 2015 when he won Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition, after releasing his first single, “Brazil” — a protest song criticizing FIFA and the 2014 World Cup — in December 2014.

It’s all come to a head with Zeros, McKenna shedding any fears of a “sophomore slump” and instead releasing a cohesive, slightly twisted and consistently captivating bit of glammed-up indie/pop.

“You Better Believe!!!” bursts forth with a classic Arctic Monkeys-ish energy and danceable beat, but its lyrics hide a more ominous approach:

The time has come where rocket boots and lasers
Lose their flavours
Like gum stuck to your heels
So you know how it feels to wait at heaven’s gate for God
Watching your requiem on screen
Gather round for the final scene
Where you were sold away one summer’s day last year
I’m sorry my dear
The asteroid’s here

This is an album of 10 songs and 40 minutes that begs for repeat listens, layers that weren’t noticeable the first time around revealing themselves on subsequent listens. It’s very much an “album” in an era in which the “album concept is “dead,” and that’s ambitious — but it delivers on its promise.

Pitchfork’s review of Zeros breaks down many of the thematic elements at play on Zeros, and taken as a whole it’s hard to fathom McKenna is so young. This is a mature concept record steeped in tradition but with a keen eye of pushing things forward, so to speak, and it’s only going to make Declan McKenna a bigger musical force than he already is.

Stream the album below, via Spotify:

Comments

  • Stirling says:

    It’s The Shins he is borrowing from… which is fine I think, seeing as James Mercer isn’t doing much with it.

  • Cat Delgado says:

    Kink’s influence additionally, big time. Lovely indeed!


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