Review of Declan McKenna’s “What Happened to the Beach?” – an authentically psychedelic encounter.

Review of Declan McKenna’s “What Happened to the Beach?” – an authentically psychedelic encounter.


Declan McKenna sings about his mundane living space and his use of drugs on his third album, portraying himself as a dangerous individual. It is clear that few major-label albums in recent times have captured the authentic psychedelic sound like this one.

The artwork for Declan McKenna’s What Happened to the Beach?View image in fullscreen

In 2015, the 25-year-old British artist gained recognition with his debut single “Brazil”. The song experienced a resurgence in popularity on TikTok in 2022. With his second album, “Zeroes”, the artist embraced a maximalist glam style. However, despite his natural talent for melodies, the album felt overly worked. In his latest release, “What Happened to the Beach?”, the artist seems to have taken the advice of someone who encouraged him to relax and let his creativity flow freely. The album has a whimsical and meandering feel, reminiscent of the Beatles’ White Album. It also draws inspiration from contemporary pop-psychedelic artists like MGMT, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Devendra Banhart (particularly on the track “Honest Test”).

The individual tracks offer enjoyable melodies, reminiscent of a sweet sugar cube on the tongue. However, the true strength of the album lies in its overall strange and undulating high, which captures the experience of drugs more accurately than the typical hazy reverb. One moment, McKenna’s lyrics depict a state of being completely stoned and paranoid, obsessing over his appearance and plastic skin. But in the next moment, on the upbeat track “Nothing Works,” he exudes a sweaty euphoria. Even amidst lyrics about corruption in football, McKenna manages to convey a sense of self-doubt and uncertainty with his compelling writing. These themes may be common for a third album, but McKenna delivers them with a dry wit, as seen in “Wobble” where he jokes about crying at home versus crying in the sunshine on a holiday in Tenerife.

Ultimately, the emotion conveyed is that of someone in a state of desperation to break free from not only their own lethargy, but also a pervasive US-UK cultural homogeneity that they criticize on Elevator Hum. They certainly succeed in doing so with this unique and detached album.