Earlier this month I saw glam rock and indie pop artist Declan McKenna live at the Brighton Centre. The concert was certainly one to remember, with the sounds of layered guitar riffs, psychedelic synths and an audience shouting back occasional politically charged (count me in) lyrics reverberating throughout the concert hall.


Declan’s Brighton show was one of the last on his What Happened to the Beach? UK and Ireland Tour, which kicked off in Cardiff. The tour was in support of his recent album of the same name, released in February of this year. Compared to his earlier works, Declan’s new album adopts a lighter, playful tone, and utilises weird and wonky instrumentals to cleverly defy any preconceived notions his listeners may have. Written and recorded in California, the record sounds like one you would expect to hear at a summer beach party and given its name that’s definitely a positive!


My personal favourite on the new album is the last single to be released, Mulholland’s Dinner and Wine, a song that combines the idea of a common British off-license with L.A.’s famous Mulholland Drive, a road with some of the most expensive houses in the world. Other honourable mentions are Sympathy, a dreamy track that sounds straight out of the 60s with its peace and love perspective, as well as I Write The News, which masterfully conveys online interaction in the post-truth era.


Declan is most known for his debut single Brazil, which he wrote at the age of 16. The protest song, which would later go viral on TikTok, was critical of the FIFA corruption scandal and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He would go on to garner a reputation as a politically aware songwriter, with his second single Paracetamol focusing on how transgender teenagers are misrepresented by right-wing media, a theme that would continue in another single, Isombard. Declan’s 2017 debut album, What Do You Think About the Car? helped cement his position as a ‘protest’ singer, with the end song Listen to Your Friends employing a spoken word bridge directly critical of Conservative Party policy – which was truly cathartic to sing along to live. However, Declan’s 2020 album Zeros allowed him to draw more upon his individual experiences, removing some of the pressure that comes with soapboxing and being seen as ‘the voice of a generation’.


One of Declan’s most political songs, which is increasingly relevant today, is his 2019 single British Bombs. The 5-minute pop-punk song focuses on British foreign policy, the arms trade and the business of war. It also highlights the hypocrisy of Britain claiming to be a peaceful nation whilst selling weapons to other countries, knowing they might end up decimating innocent civilian populations far away from home. A thunderous closing song at every Declan McKenna concert, I think everyone should see British Bombs live at some point in their life.


Overall, Declan McKenna is an incredible artist who effectively morphs the feelings and opinions of a lot of young people into songs, writing music for leftist indie kids like me. I’m extremely glad I was lucky enough to see him live and even if you don’t come for the politics, you will still have a great time! (Also, Soft Launch were an amazing support, and I would keep an eye on them if I were you!)