Declan McKenna released his second album Zeros early in September, a project that fans feared couldn't top his former album and one that critics eagerly awaited. The album is shrewd and satirical, a concept album with modernised sounds reminiscent of Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust..., Pink Floyd's The Wall and Queen's A Night at the Opera; but notably, the album is most certainly miles better than its predecessor. It's glitzy, caffeinated, futuristic and glam.
In stark contrast to What Do You Think About The Car?, an album characterised by strong messages regarding politics and sexuality, Zeros shows development in McKenna’s ideas as the album follows kids searching for meaning through space at the end of the world. Throughout the album, characters Daniel and Emily are referenced, and there are constant allusions to rockets, stars, astronauts and spaceships. If the purpose of McKenna's lyrical design is to make the listener feel as though they're watching a glamorous and sardonic sci-fi film parallel to the likes of 2001: A Space Oddyssey in their head, he most certainly succeeds. McKenna's lyrics "I'm Sagittarius, I'm A star", "the life you lead's so fucking alien", "Mother Nature's coming at ya", and "the earth returned to calmly dress itself in white", tease the primary concept of space; but also allude to ideas of climate change (shown further in lyrics such as "regardless what you believe in, Earth will change and we must grab our beds".) He manages to speak to the listener about the idea of climate change through a subtle and cynical lens, using the conceptual idea of the children being forced into space to survive. The idea of climate change is not first and foremost in the album; it is blanketed by imagery of glitz & glam and stars & suns.
The project contains ten tracks, packed with jangly guitar, jolty piano and clean yet squealy vocals signature to McKenna's sound. It is clear that not only the production of the album, but the complexity of his musical ideas have developed greatly since the release of his 2017 album. The songs are varied in instrumentation and vocals, with no song similar to another leaving the listener eagerly awaiting the next track. From a purely musical standpoint, this is by far McKenna's best work; from a conceptual standpoint, this fact remains.
The clear stars of the album are Be An Astronaut, Rapture, and Eventually, Darling - specifically the latter. This is the final track on the project, and is heartwrenching, hopeful and glum. McKenna's vocals are whiney, the guitar is slow and sharp, and the song is interrupted by moments of intense instrumentation and high pitched vocals that enhance it's melancholy and chaos. The song continues to satirically allude to ideas of climate change and nature with lyrics such as "marvellous beaches, one of us each will carry the spade", but McKenna sings further about presumed heartbreak with lyrics such as "it was nice to meet you, for love is but a fleeting friend", and "we'll end up both alone... your father feels the same way too". These lyrics have brilliant double meaning, with references to McKenna’s heartbreak, but also human’s fleeting love and appreciation of Mother Nature, and how “Father” Nature knows that humans along with Mother will end up alone due to the impacts of climate change.
Zeros is a masterpiece, in regards to music and ideology. Positively alluring, glittery, and intoxicating, McKenna has outdone himself.