Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Never Stop Runnin’ | “Nothing Works” by Declan McKenna


The cycle of creativity can be a never-ending loop — a futile battle fought against yourself. It’s like running on a treadmill stuck on high speed, trying hard to reach for that off button.

Three years ago, indie rock star Declan McKenna took us to space with his sophomore album Zeros — now, he’s finally back on Earth.

The first track off his upcoming album released back in early July, titled “Sympathy.” It is full of quirky synths and layers of vocals, demonstrating a new era of letting loose and having fun for McKenna. On his latest hit, “Nothing Works,” released on Sept. 13, that energy is further released like sunbeams drowning us in groovy pessimism.

Right from the opening seconds, I was hooked by the thunderous bassline and conversational lyrics McKenna commonly uses. The song immediately moves, creating this sense of a frustration that’s been long coming. McKenna sings about his conflict with the creative process and trying to create something that still resonates with his fans:

“What’s the point, muffin? /

I don’t believe in nothin’ anymore /

You tell me I don’t relate to the kids no more /

Now, I feel like I’m letting them down.”

The drums come in like a fast-beating heart, anxious and stress-ridden. Exasperated cries of dissatisfaction toward creative struggles fill the chorus, turning the cause of conflict on the narrator himself. It’s an unfairly cruel criticism toward one’s own creative process, an idea we don’t indulge in for too long, as McKenna balances it with scattered electronics to keep us moving. 

This song really shines in its second half. The chorus collapses in an echo of rage, electronics going haywire. The slamming of piano keys finally releases into a powerful guitar line overdriven and full of spite. It’s freeing, yet static and confining — representative of the very creative cycle McKenna struggles to overcome in his words.

The song’s final seconds feature a muffled version of the chorus, McKenna quietly humming in the background as if it were broadcasted over the radio. Perhaps he is implying that the process of listening to your own work with a critical eye is a cycle of judgment doomed to repeat for as long as you create. 

McKenna runs and runs for the entirety of “Nothing Works” — there is never a clear resolution. Some days it feels like there really isn’t an answer. We may never hit the off button and stop running, but McKenna at least reaches for it.

This song is extremely cool, and if you want to hear more, listen to Declan McKenna’s upcoming album What Happened To The Beach?, releasing Feb. 9, 2024.

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About the Contributor
Ryan Wilbert, Writer
Ryan Wilbert (he/him) is a freshman at MSU studying Information Science. He is usually found either playing his guitar or eating Crunch bars from the Sparty’s markets. His favorite artists include Car Seat Headrest, Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys, accounting for a good portion of his CD collection. “The ocean washed over your grave.” - Car Seat Headrest

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