Declan McKenna’s “Zeros” a Refreshing Break from the Usual

Declan McKenna’s “Zeros” a Refreshing Break from the Usual

Melanie Barry, Staff Writer

Declan McKenna’s new album, “Zeros” was released on Sept. 4 after a long delay due to Covid-19. He began recording the album in August of 2019, and announced that he would release it in May of 2020, but had to push the release date twice. McKenna, an English indie rock musician, said he drew inspiration from Bob Dylan when recording this album, and made several references in his songs to ’70s musicians, such as Stills and Nash.

Now, I’ve only ever listened to one Declan McKenna song before (British Bombs), which I liked quite a bit. I also have a certain respect for artists who still put out music of the rock genre, considering rock has been greatly drowned out by pop and rap music in recent years. So, I had fairly high expectations for this album, and I’m happy to report they were met.

“Beautiful Faces,” the lead single of the album, is upbeat in sound, but the lyrics are rather off-putting. McKenna explained to NME, “[‘Beautiful Faces’] is about young people in the modern world and how intimidating it can be. How scary it is to see so much and feel as though you’re doing so little.” He said he specifically thought of Instagram influencers and reality TV show participants. This can especially be seen in the chorus, where he sings of beautiful people (celebrities, politicians, activists, etc.) smiling over the soon-to-be-forgotten commoners. I thought this was a very original and unexplored concept (at least in the music industry), and I’m always impressed when artists sing about literally anything other than love and sex (which make up approximately 60% of all Billboard song subjects). The song is full and jam-worthy, with low, underlying guitar chords, smashing drums, and charged dubstep chords. Though it took me a couple replays to get used to the song, I was nodding along pretty early on.

The second song released from the album was “The Key to Life on Earth”. A tame, yet ear-pleasing melody is accompanied by soft electric guitars, a rising bass, and a high-pitched, distorted voice occasionally singing along. Lyrics of childhood in London, school frustrations, and rich kids are, according to McKenna, meant to reflect how people interact with each other, especially in disagreements. While the melody appealed to me less than some of the others, there were definitely still some ear-pleasing parts.

In “You Better Believe!!!”, the first song of the album, McKenna masters the art of telling a story through music. He describes a future world in which technology we can only imagine has now become trivial and unexciting. Instead, people are concerned about the quickly approaching asteroid, and are calling on Jesus and his followers to save the world like they’ve promised they would over and over throughout history. In the third minute, McKenna launches into a slightly altered version of the melody, shouting-singing thought-provoking lyrics. His tone makes it easy to feel the power and emotion in that section of the song, and it’s no doubt my favorite part. I thought it was much more interesting than the actual “chorus,” which was rather anticlimactic and short.

Declan McKenna clearly has an interest in the world around him and the human experiences and relations it stimulates. In my opinion, he does a fantastic job putting his observations and creative fantasies into the form of impressive indie rock music. I’ve added four songs already to my playlist, and it probably won’t stop there. I recommend this album to anyone who appreciates rock (especially from the 70s) and/or is looking for an alternative to the often dull and unfulfilling pop and rap music of our time.