Indie/Indie Rock Reviews

Review: Declan McKenna – Zeros

The long awaited album Zeros from Declan McKenna has finally arrived and it packs a punch. And when I say long awaited I’m not kidding, with McKenna saying back in December 2019 that the album was mixed and mastered ready for release, and here we are in September 2020, after 2 release delays, finally with the album in our hands, and ready to stream.

We were treated with the gloriously Bowie inspired Beautiful Faces back in late January, a glam rock stomper that absolutely goes off, and shows a definite progression from the likes of his earlier work such as 2015s Brazil, but still pumping that distinctive McKenna sound. In fact one key element to the more matured sound McKenna’s pulling off with this one is the fact that previous work would have been recorded by himself track by track with his producer, whereas this time round, McKenna set foot to get a band together in a room and play the songs, so with a full band in mind throughout the entire recording and writing process, you can see how the sounds have gone from big to gigantic, and feel a lot more scratchier and raw, which compliments the soundscape of Zeros very well.

The album’s sound feels like it was pulled straight out of a 70s glam rock band, it’s authentic without shying away from modern craftsmanship. This ranges from the glittery candy rock of the likes of Rapture, to the phenomenal ballad Be An Astronaut, almost bleeding the inspiration of songs like The Beatles’ Hey Jude and Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, feeling as if it’d fit in on David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, but comparisons don’t do it justice, you can hear the influences sure, but this is NOT Declan singing over a song that sounds like it’s made for someone else, this is jam packed of McKenna’s very identity, an organic young adult’s exclamation about the world they’re encapsulated by, with issues of social media stigma to self retrospectives. One thing that is inherently Declan is his voice which has always been iconic. Let’s not beat around the bush here, the voice cracks that add to the depth of the messages he wants to get across to the pretty incredible range he has. But this album shows his growth and maturity, the once heralded voice cracks, now raspy broken screams throughout the likes of Be An Astronaut and Rapture. Declan also really flaunts his falsetto on this album, and it’s the perfect remedy for pop-rock hooks and is just an absolute delight to listen to.

There are definitely elements of folk thrown into the mix of the album too, sounds that aren’t too far fetched from the likes of Bob Dylan or Father John Misty. And I say thrown because as brilliant as this album is, it definitely feels like a 40 minute explosion. A coherent one, but an explosion none-the-less. The themes and the sounds scream disorder, in fact a word that could sum up this album is ‘Chaos’, it’s something that feels like it goes straight into your bloodstream, but the production wraps up Zeros and makes it all feel like a home for the tracks, or perhaps an intergalactic cruise ship chasing after the likes of Ziggy Stardust to escape the dystopian present we’re all subtly sinking into. One of the big messages embedded within the record is that of impending doom, lusciously soundtracked to upbeat melodies. Declan’s never been one to shy away from making political statements through his music, and Zeros is no exception. The opening track – You Better Believe!!! Greeting the listener with the wonderful opening line “You’re gonna get yourself killed” which in the current climate, has never been more true.

Zeros is a social commentary with a vibrant disguise, where upon first listen you’ll melt into Declan’s band’s 70s serenade, and where a deeper look takes a breath to show you the state of what’s around you and how the epidemic doesn’t just stop with the likes of COVID-19, but with the far greater things at stake that strike fear into every young person in the 21st Century. It’s a chaotically wonderful listening experience and you just HAVE to hear it for yourself. Album highlights are ‘You Better Believe!!!’, ‘Be An Astronaut’, ‘Beautiful Faces’, ‘Daniel You’re Still A Child’, ‘Twice Your Size’ and ‘Rapture’. So, if you’re not familiar with Declan McKenna, then get familiar. Trust me when I say you’re missing out otherwise. It’s glam, indie perfection, and was born to be dialled up to 11.