“What Do You Think About the Car?”
THE GRADE A-
BOTTOM LINE The British teen makes a fiery debut.
Declan McKenna, the 18-year-old British singer-songwriter who won over the massive Glastonbury Festival at the tender age of 16, approaches his debut album, “What Do You Think About the Car?” (Columbia), with the unbridled enthusiasm of a teenager.
He takes on police brutality in the sleek, up-tempo rocker “Isombard.” He rails against religious hypocrisy in the indie-rock challenger “Bethlehem.” And he stands up for LGBT teens in the pop anthem “Paracetemol,” named for the British version of Tylenol, declaring, “The world will keep on turning even if we’re not the same,” as he tries to encourage understanding.
With his sharp wit and emotive vocals, McKenna adds depth to everything he sings. Even when he’s singing something as straightforward as “Why Do You Feel So Down,” McKenna informs it with the occasional Morrissey-esque croon or an arch Jarvis Cocker-y turn of phrase.
Some are already calling McKenna a postmillennial Bob Dylan because his songwriting captures the interests and intensity of teenage life. That may be a lot to hang on him, but his stunning debut shows McKenna is up to the challenge.