After having kicked off life sticking ‘Brazil’ on SoundCloud at the ripe age of fifteen, Declan McKenna is making his full length debut with What Do You Think About the Car?. It almost feels like he’s doing it in the wrong order, Declan’s had two televised Glastonbury sets, critical acclaim and sell out tours before the album came out. There’s a wholesomeness in What Do You Think About the Car?, it could be the home recording on the beginning of the album or maybe it’s the honest depth of McKenna’s lyrics.
Things kick off with ‘Humungous’. The song starts as a simple guitar ballad but builds itself into an entirely different beast by the time it reaches the four minute mark. It’s a euphoric chorus, made for shouting out loud, as Declan explains: “I remember writing it just sat home alone with my sister’s guitar in complete euphoria with only a chorus written and nothing else, just shouting the words which are super vague but just summed up all the confusion and frustration I’ve had the last two years”. ‘Brazil’ is the second part of the one-two punch McKenna delivers.
‘The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home’ talks about the sensitive topic of the Paris attacks and teen attitudes towards political atrocities. Despite the potential for a sorrow or even angry tone, the song is still incredibly upbeat, as always with Declan McKenna. ‘Make Me Your Queen’ was already a live addition to Declan’s set as were a few of the newer tracks. This is particularly lovely, a bit of ballad it feels like McKenna’s channelling his inner Morrissey.
‘Isombard’ was the first Declan McKenna song I heard and remains a firm favourite, about police brutality and the black lives matter movement, it’s a heavy subject that’s dealt with with a lot of tact. His writing feels like a call to action, a protest song. The undeniable groove of the arpeggiated synths with the “If you can’t walk then run” lyric make ‘Isombard’ instantly likeable and an earworm for sure.
Towards the end comes ‘Bethlehem’ which is a touch of light relief between bouncier numbers. The verse has a simple finger plucked guitar under surprisingly soft, beachy vocals. The chorus takes over, still beachy and light but with a bit more oomph behind it. ‘Why Do You Feel So Down’ takes a synth heavy approach to begin with, feeling a little like recent Arcade Fire albums.
‘Listen to Your Friends’ is a bloody lovely little number to finish the album. It’s more of a ballad than ‘Make Me Your Queen’ but the message is just as uplifting. Once again, McKenna tackles another issue this time the welfare state and the lack of it. Despite all of this the song plods along to a positive outlook, ending on the lines ‘put your trust in me’.
Listen to the album here.