Words: Conal Cunningham
Declan McKenna’s debut album ‘What Do You Think About the Car?’ is an album full of exciting promise and crammed with intelligent and observant lyrics. His early singles propelled the young singer to the forefront of exciting, new music due to their difficult subject matters infused with big infectious chorus’. Juggernaut lead single, ‘Brazil’ – still easily a standout track despite being released in late 2015 – takes a stab at the embedded corruption of FIFA holding the extravagantly expensive World Cup in a country crippled with poverty. ‘Paracetamol’ depicts the mistreatment of transgender people in society, with McKenna astutely stating, “The world will keep on turning/ even if were not the same” following the tragic suicide of trans teenager Leelah Acorn and the medias subsequent handling of the delicate situation. ‘Bethlehem’ sees the attentive teen question religions strict rules on love in the modern age and ‘Isombard’ is another take on socio-political issues such as modern-day xenophobia, with the irresistible chorus “If you can’t walk then run” being a smart reference to the Martin Luther King quote “If you can’t run, then walk” – implying we are moving backwards, not forwards in society.
McKennas’ eloquence and execution as a song writer at the tender age of eighteen is startling. Insightful moments come in ‘Bethlehem’ – “I hope and pray for love to reign”, and in ‘The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home” – “Have you got any shame/ Have you got no morals? Teaching them how to aim/ No sadness and no sorrow”. These moments, along with the strong subject matters of the songs, contrast with more melancholic times such as “I’m in your grip from which I can’t escape” in ‘Make Me Your Queen’, “I’m insecure/ as pretty as I seem” in ‘I Am Everyone Else’ and throughout the brilliant album closer ‘Listen to Your Friends’. This provides a thoughtful outlook on McKenna and the younger generation; concerned with large societal issues yet simultaneously under the age-old relatable struggle of romance, inferiority and confusion. Furthermore, the snippets of children talking at the start of the album and after ‘The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home’ portray a character that doesn’t take himself too seriously and remains grounded after the impromptu whirlwind of success that quickly followed the singer following his 2015 Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition win.
‘What Do You Think About the Car?’ is an extremely impressive and refreshing album that flows strongly from start to finish, and one of the only albums I have listened to recently that has truly made me reflect pensively and positively. The articulate nature of McKenna’s lyrics, his catchy and diverse songs alongside his energetic live shows have quickly gained him a large and loyal fanbase, and with this album, it seems difficult to suggest he is going away anytime soon.