Equal measures down to earth and extra-terrestrial, Zeros takes on modern culture in a highly entertaining rigmarole, along the way meeting happy-go-xenophobic locals, scrounging rich kids, and subjects of a capitalist machine wearing ties forever and ever. Politically angsty, it navigates around the mundaneness of Quavers and Nike trainers to the cruel heart of Mrs Thatcher and back again with unwavering confidence.
Declan McKenna’s follow-up record seems ‘Ashes to Ashes’-ish often in its absurdity and certainly in its jangly melodies – with that twangy Major Tom hallmark note vibrating round the album and the mysterious character creation of Daniel referenced throughout.
‘You Better Believe!!!’ blows the cobwebs off with pockets of witty lyricism before we juggernaut into a mature album by the second track, ‘Be an Astronaut’, which actually feels like an apt album finale and hopefully closes the live show in future. An otherworldly quality continues to meander its way through the album, definitely pinpointing the highlights and noticeably absent from the lowlights. ‘The Key to Life on Earth’ and ‘Beautiful Faces’ both open a frustrated discourse at modern capitalist pressures, from economic monotony to keeping up appearances in Gen Z, backboned by ethereal hooks.
That’s not to say the album doesn’t have its uninspiring moments; ‘Emily’ fits the bill for the centre-piece filler, nestled either side of the quirky House-of-Lords, sandwich-boards lyrics of ‘Daniel, You’re Still a Child’ and the clout of ‘Twice your Size’.
I’m drawn to say ‘Rapture’ is the pivotal let-go moment of the album (he’s off the hook for the tenuous half-rhyme of ‘nature’ and ‘Thatcher’). ‘Sagittarius A*’ and ‘Eventually, Darling’ make for a slightly humdrum indie ending – luckily the familiarity of the album’s sonic influences makes it impossible not to press play again.
But kudos where it’s 100% due. This is an impressive second offering from an artist with a big voice and a lot to say. McKenna is a talent that shouldn’t be underestimated – any artist who doesn’t take themselves too seriously on Twitter, and admits a lyric from their album was inspired by Mean Girls, is an artist I can get behind.
Words by Yasmin Duggal