July 19, 2017 Declan McKenna – What Do You Think About The Car? (Album Review)
The challenge for England’s Declan McKenna may be battling his Pop star appearance long enough to be taken seriously as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Then again, at only eighteen years of age, he has already made some head way, originally catching the attention of Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition in 2015, after uploading a song to Bandcamp and SoundCloud. Now signed on with Columbia Records, McKenna is set to release his debut album What Do You Think About The Car?
Recorded over the past two years, and set for release on Friday, July 21, 2017, what makes Mckenna’s debut even more compelling is he worked with producers such as James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco (Depeche Mode, Arctic Monkeys). Additionally, “Listen to Your Friends” is produced by Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, “Paracetamol” produced by Neil Comber; and “Brazil” was produced by Max Marlow. Why is this worth mentioning? Well, it displays McKenna’s maturity as he associates with array of seasoned veterans, instantly gives the teen a sense of credibility by the company he keeps.
Already attaining lofty comparison to musicians that came before, McKenna’s music has a connection to life verbalized to a generation heading through uncharted territory technologically. Hailing from Hertfordshire, approximately ten minutes north of London, McKenna has tapped into subject matter much more lofty than your average eighteen year old. Van Morrison comes to mind with the Irish Rock band blending style.
Additionally, McKenna also has the “x” factor that simply cannot be described along with a teen idol boyish charm that will immediately attract younger listeners. That all in mind, the eleven track album opens with lead single “Humongous” where McKenna sets a tone of a little child’s perception on life shifting into a teen lament. Ear catching, it is eloquently illustrated with imagery in a much more mature fashion than a young man McKenna’s age might deliver. The song feels like a ride on the tube through every bit of what is wrong with the majority of youthful perception of the world. Brilliantly written, the tempo continues to accelerate blindly like the boat in Willy Wonka’s chocolate river, a transition from childhood reality and young adult perceptions crashing not so sweetly.
Next up, “Brazil” is a Pop number pulling in the sampling of a child’s voice once again into a strolling melody. This and the track “The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home” shift into a more mature subject matter. Musically supported by solid keyboards and backing vocals, these two tracks showcase playful tone before growing up sets in. Teen angst is on display, combining it with musical choices lyrically structured like the grandkid to The Who’s “The Kids Are Alright.” Then comes “Mind,” which crosses the line of pubescent confusion with an Arctic Monkey flair, circus-like and circular melodically, surrounded by vocals which are driven by mature choices in chord structure as well as progression.
Really pulling towards influences of great Indie Pop Rock, the discordant “I Am Everyone Else” calls out teen angst with a floodlight. Individuality is always at risk during this time of life and McKenna uses songs such as this to point a finger at his peers, calling them out. Heading toward the end of the album, “Bethlehem” is simple melodically, packing a punch lyrically. It is during this song listeners can connect to the social message going on here, subtle and pointed.
Through the album, McKenna is skilled in his vocal delivery; Rock one song to Pop the next, making them all feel authentic. That said, “Paracetamol” comes on with a harsh reality opening and interspersed with masterful keyboard work. A calliope of joy counterbalancing lyrical despair and loneliness, this is possibly the best song of the album. Finally, “Listen to Your Friends” sails out on a breeze of connection to the music an artist is sharing with his listeners. In essence, it is a song of thanks and the baring of the soul from a junior rockstar in the making.
Sequentially perfect, What Do You Think About The Car? is songwriting that is vulnerable and human. Beyond Pop, these songs are all from an eighteen year old young man whose voice will no doubt be heard for years to come. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives What Do You Think About The Car? 5 out of 5 stars.