Four-year-old Declan McKenna was asked what he thought of the new family motor, by his camcorder-holding sister, Rosanna. Diddy Declan cursorily approved of said wagon, then swiftly moved on to more pressing matters, announcing that he was going to perform his new album (a Busted song, as it turned out). Fourteen years after that prodigious interlude, the Hertfordshire wunderkind has only gone and actually released his debut LP. To top it all, it's bang tidy.
After winning the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition in 2015, he's already played the festival three times. The skirmish to sign McKenna involved more participants than the Eurovision Song Contest, made all the more ironic that Columbia won eventually. But all credit to them, to McKenna, and mega-producer James Ford, for the fact that this album sounds as if Deccers has taken his time to craft a record that's genuinely personal and individual, one that doesn't smack of anyone else's interference or contrivance. Sitting alongside bands like Vant, McKenna embodies a growing trend of socially-aware young people, eyes wide open, holding a questionable world up to scrutiny. His songs are eloquently and energetically challenging, yet deeply compassionate.
His breakthrough song "Brazil" builds gradually, each layer augmenting the sweetness of the sound, running in counterpoint to the bitter, ironic lyrics. By the time 'the beautiful game' is mentioned, that phrase peers through the ugliness of dubious FIFA ethics surrounding the 2014 World Cup. The agitated synths of "Isombard" evoke the tensions created by heavy-handed policing and its justification by aggressive, right-wing news. "Bethlehem" holds the mirror to religion and how we 'confide', but in return it 'confines', and contains the richly ambiguous, 'Love is only as you see it'.
He sounds like John Lennon on several occasions, especially on opener "Humongous". "Make Me Your Queen" adds a touch of the Gallaghers, the simple piano and acoustic guitar accompanying the words of a self-defeating character pursuing a suitor s/he knows is toxic. Leelah Alcorn's mistreatment and subsequent suicide - an American teenager sent for Christian conversion therapy as a panacea for being transgender - inspires "Paracetamol". 'Tell me what's on your mind/ And don't forget your paracetamol' sounds deliberately trite and shite - an inadequate adult voice, just as some parents are the root cause of why "The Kids Don't Wanna Come Home". On "Listen To Your Friends", we're challenged to wonder if that's all we do nowadays. The final words on the album, 'Please trust in me' implore us to consider new and diverse opinions.
"What Do You Think About The Car?" proves that youth can be more than a progression from Minecraft, via sexting, to death by Instagram. This is Declan. Declan makes catchy tunes. Declan dampens the hype and enjoys the music. Declan is smart. Be like Declan.