Less political power; more melodic innovation
Tom Dibb
14:39 25th August 2020

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Since the release of 2015’s ‘Brazil’, Declan McKenna’s star has been fast rising. Now at the height of his powers, he's back with a second full-length album - and with Zeros, the singer-songwriter makes up in melodic diversity what he lacks in political bite. 

‘You Better Believe’ opens the album with a light and breezy indie-pop sound: dashes of piano intermix with guitar for a dreamy haze-like experience. At once, McKenna’s vocal delivery jerks the listener out of their bubble and into his world. ‘Be An Astronaut’ provides a more emotive and piano-driven sound: the introduction of strings give the chorus a sense of euphoria, pushing the melody to its crescendo.

‘The Key To Life On Earth’ fails to make as much of an impact: it's closer to a reinvented Harry Styles cut than anything resembling noted protest songs such as 'British Bombs'.

As the album progresses, McKenna showcases his ability to provide deeply varied melodies, both from track to track as well as within songs themselves. The acoustic-country stylings - clearly inspired by the Nashville studio the album was recorded in - of ‘Emily’ make way for the synth-tinged ‘Twice Your Size' in a slick one-two.

Blending guitar rock and upbeat pop, ‘Beautiful Faces’ is a grandiose and sleek way to close out the record. McKenna himself describes the marriage between melody and lyrical themes in the track as being "scary big”. Panoramic and experimental, the song encapsulates the anxieties and worries of our ever-growing technological age with enough grace and vagueness as to leave the listener pondering where they lie in societies' masterplan.

Zeros is at times his own worst enemy. Attempting to blend upbeat heat-wave pop and guitar-orientated protest music, it fails to click into harmony at certain points in the album. Still, some wonderfully blissful highpoints - 'Beautiful Faces' and 'Emily' chief among them - make it an engaging listen. 

Zeros arrives 4 September via Sony. 

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Photo: Press