Declan McKenna loses record-breaking charts battle, but cements the affection of music lovers in sensational glam rock thriller.
Words by Tom Farmer- @tomfarmer5000 @TomFarmerJourno
There are few things more exciting in music than a charts battle: the David VS Goliath challenge for that coveted number one slot. We’ve had Blur V Oasis, we had every indie kid’s favourite post-punk, bleached haired six-piece Sports Team take on Lady Gaga, now we have Declan McKenna against the Rolling Stones.
McKenna, the fresh-faced rising star of British guitar music, took on Mick Jagger and the Stones (arguably the constellation of British guitar music) in the race to Number One. The Rolling Stones were competing with a reissue of “Goats Head Soup”, already a Number One record after its first release, whilst the North London youngster was hoping that “Zeros”- his space-y, spectacularly enjoyable second album- would claim the top spot. The result was, unfortunately, one for the old guard. Jagger and his geriatric rockers claimed a record-breaking sixth Number One album, leaving Mckenna in second place. Despite this “defeat”, the 21 year-old will certainly still be celebrating tonight.
The album itself is the second record I’ve heard this year, only to be eclipsed by the aforementioned Sports Team’s debut album “Deep Down Happy”. About thirty seconds into the record’s opener “You Better Believe!!!”, it is evident that this is a catharsis of indie pop which is impossible to not like. With dreamy vocals provided by McKenna, lyrics laced with charm and mosh pit-worthy mosh pits; the album is a pleasure to listen to. I do not think that there is a bad track on the album, with bouncy singles such as “Beautiful Faces” bringing the mood up, whilst tracks like “Emily” (the most ubiquitous name in indie music) brings the mood right down. Audacious, vibrant, satisfying. The album certainly hit the spot.
I’m sure the 21 year old is sick of hearing it, but “Zeros” gives such strong Bowie vibes that it feels as though the year is 1972 again. The theme of space running through the album, the Ziggy Stardust-like “Daniel” character featuring in a couple of songs and glam rock guitar solos. I’m not saying he’s ripping Bowie off, but I wouldn’t be surprised if McKenna performed as an alter-ego when live music returns. Joking aside, I have no doubt that he would be able to pull that off.
Of course, Declan McKenna is not averse to being different. His debut online release “Brazil”, a song written for his GCSE music coursework, tackled the issue of FIFA corruption before the 2014 Rio World Cup. This was far from the token song about heart ache or nights out that teenage artists tend to announce themselves with. McKenna’s fearless approach was further epitomised in his second single “Paracetamol”, a dark and graphic audial depiction of suicide amongst young people in the LGBT+ community. It’s safe to say that the North Londoner doesn’t do things the easiest way. Glorified by bucket hat-clad “lads”, yet wears nail vanish. Openly pansexual, yet a massive Tottenham fan. Only 21, yet more mature than most of the Rolling Stones. McKenna breaks a myriad of lazy stereotypes.
Whilst his music is enjoyable, his charisma and personality is loveable. Born in North London but then moving to Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, “Dec” has both an Enfield twang, but the warmth and gentleness of Middle-England. He genuinely seems like a lovely lad, devoid of arrogance or ego. If he wants to be full-on David Bowie, he might have to do something about that. I have glossed over the fact that he is a mere 21 years of age. He should be mourning his mounting student loan or just beginning to sort out his life, not celebrating the release of a second top 10 album.
A phrase synonymous with Declan McKenna is “voice of our generation”. In a year of such despair ,the upbeat, vibrant tunes of McKenna have indeed come at the best time possible. When the mascara-brushed, mulleted McKenna returns to arenas and festival stages dressed in sparkly suits, we’ll meet you down the front **** 1/2.