"Zeros takes us on a journey into Daniel’s warped reality. There is truth behind his distortion, however. He represents the current generation, with the feeling of dread and hopelessness as to what the future holds..."

By Nathan Copeland | January 22nd 2021

Featured Image Credit: Declan McKenna's Zeros Album Cover

Declan McKenna’s Zeros: Daniel And His World Of Rocket Boots And Lasers

What do you think about the car? or should I say the rocket I built? Declan McKenna’s second album, Zeros, graced our ears back in September 2020, ironically speaking about the end of all things whilst being released in the midst of 2020. Four months down the line though, what does this album mean now, here in 2021? 

The album itself screams an ode to the 60s and 70s pop culture, paying homage to the icons of the days gone past. David Bowie, the Moon Landing, The Beatles, even the Space Hopper all gravitate to this retro album, presenting an anthemic, dystopian space oddity of a story that, in true McKenna style, features messages of politics, religion, technology and the environment. 

There is a linear story in this album, using You Better Believe!!! as the story-setter, describing this dystopian world where rocket boots and lasers lose their flavours like gum stuck to your heels. Despite the crazy and abstract concepts as well as dystopian elements, this world still feels so similar to our world: using the mundane such as grabbing a bag of Quavers and buying a pair of Nike shoes to bring back a sense of reality and relatability. We are then introduced to Daniel in the next song, Be An Astronaut, who is a recurring character throughout the album. Daniel is our protagonist in this dystopian world - but who exactly is Daniel? Throughout the album, we get to know more about Daniel. We see that he is a lost soul in a peculiar world. He, himself, is abstract - almost fluid in existence, and is perhaps referenced ever so subtly in every song (or it could even be from his perspective that we see this dystopian world in). 

In the music video to The Key To Life On Earth, we see two McKennas - the video telling a story of Declan’s doppelganger, Black Mirror actor Alex Lawther, invading Declan’s life and ultimately attacking him to replace the ‘real’ Declan for good. Having Alex Lawther playing Declan’s doppelganger adds a flair of unease, due to his prior acting roles in the dark show  Black Mirror as well as playing a sociopath in The End Of The F***ing World, bringing dark connotations to this mysterious doppelganger in the music video. Perhaps this doppelganger is Daniel. Perhaps Daniel is Declan’s alter-ego or inner ‘doppelganger’, which could suggest a few things. Is this dystopian world an alternate reality, where everything has gone wrong? Is this dystopian world the future, where Daniel has time travelled, trying to change the future? Or perhaps this is Declan’s vision of a potentially ‘skewed’ future...

The overarching theme of the album is hopelessness and anxiety towards an imminent, doomed future. This is personified in the form of Daniel, who dreamed to be an astronaut, but was quickly shunned by the people around him thinking it as a waste of time. Later on he would be shunned yet again, belittled as being still a child. He is therefore alienated and is ultimately a lost soul in this warped, dystopian and evil world. This could further the idea of this dystopian world being a glimpse into Mckenna’s vision of a doomed future. We, the listeners, are seeing a glimpse into Daniel’s mind, where everything is warped into an abstract and distorted world because of the traumas that Daniel has experienced. 

We reach the imminent end of all things in Sagittarius A*, the name itself referencing a giant blackhole in the centre of the Milky Way that is slowly dragging everything into itself. This big blackhole destined for destruction represents all the problems in our real world that will similarly cause destruction in its own way. Confirmed in an article with The Times, Sagittarius A* encompasses all the problems and concerns that took place in 2019 for current generations, such as climate change and other environmental issues. This is the pivotal climax of the album, where the ‘doom’ has reached this dystopian world and is pulling everything in to create ‘the end’. This is the reasoning behind the hopelessness that’s prevalent throughout the album, and is ultimately what is represented in Daniel’s hopelessness.

Eventually, Darling is the last song of the album. This song represents change and the brutality of it. Coming after Sagittarius A* and being the last song on the album gives it an interesting air, like a light at the end of the tunnel - a bittersweet light. Towards the end of the song, we hear ‘human-like’ musical elements that were prevalent in the earlier songs. There is a soft ‘choir’ as well as a cello; however, both these sounds are highly altered and electronic sounding. The choir sounding extremely auto-tuned and the cello playing at an unnatural pitch, most likely played on a mellotron as opposed to a real cello. This could represent how different this dystopian world is after the destruction of Sagittarius A*, or perhaps providing a glimmer of hope that everything will be okay, if something changes. 

Zeros takes us on a journey into Daniel’s warped reality. There is truth behind his distortion, however. He represents the current generation, with the feeling of dread and hopelessness as to what the future holds due to climate change and other political issues. His distorted world does in fact tell the listener that there is hope though, and that is who this mysterious Daniel is.


To listen Declan Mckenna's album, Zeros, you can click here.