Imagine Vampire Weekend swallowed a gameboy coated in LSD and uncertainty. Then imagine there was only one of them. And, that they were 2 at the turn of the Millennium. You’d be beginning to approximate the extraordinary Declan McKenna’s Paracetamol: a glitchy and probing commentary on confronting gender as a teenager, in all it’s hormone-laced intensity. ‘A boy of 15 with a gun in his hand // A boy of 15 turning into a man, well tell me one other thing he can’. The lyrics alone convey an impressive nuance. That they are set against such a rich, infectious soundtrack created alone by a 17 year old is a remarkable feat.
Paracetamol was McKenna’s follow up to his hard-hitting breakout track, Brazil. Written at the time of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, it despaired at FIFA’s corrupting impact on countries that desperately bid for a World Cup they can barely afford: ‘I heard you sold the Amazon to show the country that you’re from is where the world should want to be’. It made a mockery of FIFA’s purported noble aims: ‘I’m going to burn down your house to spread peace and love’. And it came at a great time, just as the FIFA corruption scandal was peaking. That lead to a meteoric rise: from school in Hertfordshire to appearing on Sky News alongside Adam Boulton. As well it should. This was a captivating trinity: political commentary, fascinating instrumentation and catchy pop music.
Having tackled corruption and gender, McKenna thought he’d take on the very notion of holy next. Bethlehem cuts to the heart of modern religious contradictions: ‘I’m heaven sent, I can do as I want and you don’t have the right to choose // Cos you follow codes then break them, for love is only what does suit you most’. Driven by a punchy guitar riff, the electronic experimentation of Paracetamol has been swapped for something simpler but no less effective. The variety is impressive. The B-sides to Brazil and Paracetamol show off an even greater soundscape. This is a truly special talent. Declan might still be comprehending and critiquing the intricacies of society and adulthood, we’re just happy to come along for the ride. And, can’t wait to see him live.