Saturday, August 5, 2017

What Do You Think About the Car? | Declan McKenna



While we Americans have been caught in the terrifying whirlwind that is the Trump administration, it has been quite easy to ignore the outside world. But we mustn't those in the United Kingdom, for example, were trapped in their own madhouse last year as Brexit was voted through in a narrow margin and David Cameron's resignation dismantled the arrangement of the county's political figureheads. Having come to age in an era of political chaos, when liberalism has become the golden standard for political correctness without having its standards actualized through the current administration, singer-songwriter Declan McKenna is fed up.

On his debut album, What Do You Think About the Car?, he finds power in youth, in the millennial generation that remains the subject of concern for right-winging, bitter-clinging, proud clingers to our guns, our God, our religions, and our constitution. Glued together with hopeless echoes of "do you care?," opening track "Humongous" implodes in its own frustration – an anger that developed from being told that his generation is the future, but then being ridiculed based on liberal sociopolitical beliefs. It's not long, however, before the dooming feeling of helplessness turns to indifference on "The Kids Don't Wanna Go Home," as McKenna throws his hands up in response to his null position in politics as a citizen under 18. (He has since aged up and is able to vote in his native United Kingdom.)

While McKenna's feelings often occupy his mind, they give way long enough for societal observation – only for said observation to anger him all the more. His debut track that overtook streaming platforms in 2015, "Brazil," throws accountability onto FIFA for its irresponsibility, slamming its decision to incinerate Brazil economically when it chose the country to host the world cup. "Paracetamol," meanwhile, was inspired by the fears and troubles of transgender teens in the wake of Leelah Alcorn's 2014 suicide: "So tell me what's in your mind, so tell me what's in your mind, and don't forget your paracetamol smile," he sings, inviting listeners into a peer-to-peer therapy session.

He adorns his thoughts in spiraling rock production that glows with an indie-static record store appeal. Minus perhaps the electronic harpsichord on the Foster the People-channeling "Isombard" and the analog synthesizers in "Paracetamol," everything about this record feels organic, as if recorded with a cheap microphone in McKenna's garage: the shouted, slurred vocals, the drum kits, the summery acoustic song bases. It all makes for a refreshing, calming oasis within a sparsely populated corner of popular music's world today, in which so many chase clean, concise, electronic-based environments.

Moreover, What Do You Think About the Car? is a promising sign that this generation's Woodstock era – the one Katy Perry thought she had signaled into popularity but Lana Del Rey recently undertook in a manner that can be taken seriously – may appear at the time when we need it the most. Young people, albeit not a majority of them, pay attention to the real world's disastrous affairs, even if mediated through the distracting screens in their pockets. And though McKenna's music sometimes substitutes musicality for meaning and gets wrapped in its own feelings of defeat, this record is nothing if not rooted in social awareness – a camp in which music is sure to put both feet as political administrations continue to toy with the international environment like a puppet on a string.

What Do You Think About the Car? is available now under Columbia Records.

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