You’ve surely heard of the teenage wunderkind Declan McKenna at some point in the past two years. His debut song, ‘Brazil’ was a comment on the 2014 World Cup and FIFA’s blind eye to the local issues surrounding it. He entered it in Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent contest and won a slot at the festival. He was signed up by management behemoth Q Prime, and at the following year’s festival, he signed to Columbia Records. Which brings us to this, his debut album.
After recording ‘Brazil’ himself, What Do You Think About the Car? was produced by James Ford, known for his work with established acts like Arctic Monkeys and Depeche Mode. Ford’s influence is most noticeable on new song ‘Make Me Your Queen’, which is slick and refined compared to the previously released tracks.
Five of the songs have previously been released. Along with the aforementioned ‘Brazil’, there’s the Fox News-baiting ‘Isombard’, and the contemplation of organised religion in ‘Bethlehem’. ‘Paracetamol’ was inspired by the abhorrent treatment and subsequent suicide of a transgender teenager. His latest single ‘The Kids Don't Wanna Come Home’ is the recent general election in microcosm. McKenna has said that:
“It's about wanting to be part of a powerful and intelligent young generation - who stand up against these negative things we're shown incessantly on our phones. There's a lot of confusing information out there - but I'd like to be hopeful in a world that's often thought to be in despair”.
Regarding the new songs, it would be surprising if ‘Mind’ is not released as a single. It has a catchy chorus and a post-punk lead guitar riff that you’ll be humming after hearing it. McKenna comes off like Ray Davies at times and, on ‘I Am Everyone Else’ he counters The Kinks outsider classic ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ with a modern inclusivity that we can only hope will overcome the isolationist individualism we’ve seen in recent years.
It’s too early to judge Declan McKenna properly but What Do You Think About the Car? is a consistently impressive work of imaginative tunes and accomplished lyrics. If he can retain his individuality amid the major label hype and sludge, he’ll be one to watch for a while to come.