Declan McKenna is a name that every indie kid will be familiar with, with the release of his debut album, ‘What Do You Think About The Car?’, arriving at a crucial point for indie in 2017 – with tracks like ‘Brazil’ and ‘Listen To Your Friends’ gaining traction for being tapped in politically whilst being joyous and lighthearted enough to be big hitters in festival season. Its follow-up, Zeros, allowed him to reach dizzying new heights, pipped to Number 1 in the UK Charts by none other than The Rolling Stones – and now, with album 3, McKenna takes us on another quest – asking, ‘What Happened To The Beach?’ 

Acoustic opener, ‘Wobble’ sets a sombre and dreamlike mood, creating a hazy atmosphere that feels captivating and true to Declan’s signature sound. Its lyrics are deeply introspective, exploring the theme of loneliness with poetic finesse, with its reflective tone adding another layer to the track.

Proving that his talent is made for bigger festival slots than the ones he has been dealt, ‘Elevator Hum’ showcases a sound reminiscent of McKenna’s earlier work. Featuring his mellow vocals, this time accompanied by a horn section, it delves into the topic of mental health struggles with honesty and a fun, playful approach. The track’s lyrical content intertwines with the music here, creating a thought-provoking piece that is pleasant, yet doesn’t feel quite as alluring as its Zeros counterparts. 

‘I Write News’ seems to take inspiration from soft-rock anthems of the ’60s, allowing for a softer approach that makes room for more personal, raw, vocals from the solo artist. The lyrical performance here observes the way society consumes media, offering accessible commentary on the current political landscape, before taking a playful jab at constantly increasing prices in London, using a tongue-in-cheek manner to highlight the absurdity of the situation. ‘I Write News’ is a highlight from McKenna’s third outing – holding thoughtful lyrics and catchy melodies that display his distinctive sound and style. 

Penultimate track, ‘It’s An Act’ sees McKenna turn the pace down a notch, allowing him to reflect on his life on the road. The track is written in the third person, from the perspective of an artist who feels the weight of the expectations placed on him to put on a good show for his audience. Commendably mellow and vulnerable, it showcases his ability to convey the internal struggles of the music industry, and as it progresses he acknowledges that the facade he’s putting on is ‘all an act – and in doing so, he exposes the raw, truth of his experiences on the road. 

While What Happened To The Beach? May not necessarily draw in a new audience for Declan McKenna, but it does present a fresh dimension to his musical style, demonstrating his willingness to explore uncharted territory. Though at times the album may seem to follow a somewhat formulaic indie rock formula, and it may not quite measure up to the heights achieved on previous release, Zeros, it is admirable to see McKenna pushing the boundaries of his sound and actively experimenting. In the long run, this creative venture will likely pay off.

Rating

Composition
Lasting Appeal
Lyrics
Production

Good

Katie Macbeth

katie macbeth

Katie Macbeth is a freelance music journalist for Indie Is Not A Genre based out of Manchester, presenter of @drunktankthink, and post punk enthusiast.



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