Declan McKenna: What Happened To The Beach? review: New album is hot stuff
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What Happened To The Beach?, his third album, dives into a summertime journey of a genre defining album that explores distinguishable advancements in his sound and which introduces us to a voyage of political matters and crazed lyricisms, that remain still unmistakably McKenna.
With nearly four years passing since his last album Zeros, which saw the musician adopt a glam-rock style to his sophomore compilation, it felt like an eternity before we'd hear any new album-based material.
Although the indie-rock scene will still be thankful for the fact that the politically inspired, modern classic British Bombs saw a release soon after Zeros, as it is a dramatic set closer artists only dream of.
So, to finally hear new music from the London-born artist, that is so creative, and transfixing shows his ability to transform as he triumphantly returns to the music scene like he never left.
The album's first track, Wobble, is a lovely and dreamy, acoustic opener that asks and answers the album's namesake of "What Happened To The Beach?".
Its peaceful mood and sea breeze of poetic constructions that explore themes of loneliness, as well as McKenna's creative wordplay, provide an inventive and melancholic opening to his third album while setting a high production standard and a reflective mood that is matched by every other track on the record.
Following on is Elevator Hum, the album's third single, which displays a dreamier side and follows on in similar footsteps of Wobble as an indie inspired track to daydream away to.
With the track being lost in a sweetly sounding melody and a catchy melancholic chorus, it demonstrates McKenna's ability to write festival season powerhouses as well as more intricate and delicate songs that would be ideal for relaxing and bathing in the sun.
The third track, I Write The News, draws inspiration from 60s soft rock with a quieter and more raw vocal performance from McKenna. It draws in the listener as it pulls the rug out from underneath you and conforms and changes into a groovy stomp rock-inspired track, critiquing our system of uncountable issues with not only culture but also how we consume our media as a nation.
Of the four singles to be released, Sympathy was the first, and its catchy Beatles-inspired chorus served as an introspective introduction to McKenna's new approach to the album, as it showed the mellower side of the record through its verses and lyrical structure.
But its upbeat nature can be contrasted with the tracks later on the compilation that delves into this higher gear of contagious rock. Overall, it is an indie pop combination of all the defining sounds that this album journeys through, as its addicting and memorable chorus will stick with you for weeks on end.
Mulholland's Dinner and Wine is a groovy addition, with some really unique vocals from McKenna that add to a psychedelic unmatched sound that delves into creative symphonies as the song shifts and develops into this hypnotic daze that will transfix any listener with its addictive melody and collectively humorous nonsensical lyrics that will captivate anyone who hears it.
The sixth track, Breath of Light, is an experimental tribe-like experience that transports you to a sound similar to Empire of the Sun vocally and MGMT tonally, as it blends these two experimental 2000s rock sounds into this perfectly crafted outcome, that includes lyrics only McKenna could infuse into a song of this creativity.
Nothing Works is the second single released in support of the album; it debuted live during the festival season before its initial release at events such as Reading and Leeds Fest, and it makes sense that it was played last festival season because of its intense rocky build-up, and manic lyrics that fixate on his inability to write un-politically motivated songs, leads into this crazed finale that allows for this catchy tune to be considered worthy of the largest mosh pits at any live event where it is played.
Phantom Buzz follows on from the track before by keeping the tempo high as it rides out the latter side of the album to the more rocky side, its 90s experimental rock feel mixed with a dirty-sounding guitar riff that will undoubtedly become a favourite among fans and festivals as it delves into a catchy chorus matched with an unmatched guitar riff and expeditious tempo as it moves in and out of the chorus to transfix on an addictive upbeat hook that'll have ears perking up straight away.
Reaching close to the end of the album, we are treated to Honest Test which is a fairly laid-back record having a bright acoustic tone to it, with McKenna's vocals allowing the song to develop into this compassionate but restful trip of a summer stringed feeling as it has a sunny sweet warmth to it.
Mezzanine's insanely catchy start is an inspired soft rock daydream.
The combination of McKenna's voice and lyrics is one-of-a-kind and is unmatched in his ability to produce an energetic yet collectively beautiful composition that adds to the artist's contemplative and nostalgic summertime atmosphere as the sun rays pour through his lyrics and into the melody.
The album closer, It’s An Act has a dramatic/classical intro that defines and returns within the track and serves as a purposeful mellow yet vulnerable outgoing to the album. Despite being the longest song on the album, it doesn't overstay its welcome as it transforms the ending What Happened To The Beach? into a classical whirl of tension as it builds and carries on into this poignant end.
The final track, 4 More Years, is the shortest on the album; it's a hymn-inspired track that playfully highlights the near on four years since his last album's release; it's a gospel yet cult-sounding finish, and ends with McKenna saying, "wouldn't this make a cool en..." and being cut off; I agree, I think it'd make a good en...
Overall, the four years in the oven were well worth it; this new direction he has taken while constantly honing his songwriting abilities contribute to this delicately put together sun-stricken album that blazes through insecurities and social issues in a tongue-in-cheek format that allows for an introspective reflection of McKenna himself and his growth as not only an artist but also as a person.
- What Happened To The Beach? is released on February 9