British Bombs -
Declan McKenna

A punchy indie pop song about British arms deals in the Middle East.

British Bombs is a song that is unsubtle in it’s anti-war messaging. It’s an intense, energetic and angry song that focuses around the hypocrisy of “proper” English society during a time where London is actively engaging in lucrative Middle Eastern arms deals. This is the first song that I’ve talked about that has a music video to go along with it.

McKenna comes out of the gate with mockery, purposefully using language and phrases that were common in a more 20th-century England. Something that is even more emphasized in the music video is this quality of British caricature. For the purposes of this song, I think that it lends itself as a powerful image, even if portrayed as a false one. The idea of proper, polite, and quiet society is upended in this song that harshly addresses the moral crimes of the parliament, whom McKenna essentially accuses of hiding behind this preconceived notion of how the British “are” in order to escape scrutiny about modern injustices. 

Great snakes, are we moving already?
Good gravy, did you say it cost a penny or two for you?
Well, talking ’bout the bad starts
My baby brother has already got a gas mask
‘Cause it’s a good old-fashioned landslide
Killing with your hands tied
In the homemade rope, set sail
Babe, we read it in The Mail, no hope now

Great way to fool me again, hun
Great acting, it’s good what you tell ’em
Great Britain won’t stand for felons
Great British bombs in the Yemen

Why does it seem
A fever dream for all?
The call you made to me
You said I fear
One day each year, I worry
We shall remember the dead
And we’ll remember the dead so they know that we’re sorry
But then carry on

The music video play heavily on comical, animated caricatures of the British, which I felt was addressing the chorus when referring to “acting”. But even more poignant is the immediate juxtaposition that is made: that Britain is hard on crime at the same time that their bombs are being utilized in the Middle East.

This juxtaposition is taken further along with the mention of Remembrance day. Here there is an implication that the dead are “remembered” but not actually taken into account with the violence that Britain continues to assist to their south. 

Another point that this songs hits on is famine. One of the largest humanitarian crisis of our generation is happening with the Yemen famine, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that 1. McKenna mentions Yemen in the chorus and 2. the music video continuously cuts to clips of food on plates and people eating traditional British meals. 

Caraway seeds are spices that are similar to cumin that are used in Middle Eastern dishes. It appears that this line could be said from the perspective of the British Parliament, and I believe that this whole verse serves just to mock the famine as whole in order to completely ignore it and Britain’s hand in it. This message is especially powerful in the music video, where these images of food are thrown between graphic depictions of war.

How could it be the money? It’s the vote that matters to me
You say you’re hungry, but you won’t eat the caraway seed
Doesn’t matter in the wreckage, what should you say?
Well, I found myself a little peckish last Tuesday
This is what you signed up for, no questions
Reckon we could offer peacetime from weapons conventions
Well, it’s on the table, but it’s no game, can’t you hear
All our worries for fear, carry on

And it’s a total fucking whitewash
The people that we might squash
And move from home soil, set sail
For wherever the fuck got oil this time
And if it’s not a fucking war crime
It’s a total waste of your time
And getting so much worse
Get real, kid, your country’s been at war since birth now
And if it’s not a fucking outrage, what’s it all about, babe?
Now, it’s one on one
Great Britain’s gonna tell you where it all went wrong and then carry on

I believe that more than anything, this last verse is just an expression of anger and sadness. It echos a similar criticism that is heard about American involvement in the Middle East, which is that it’s a scheme to get hands into oil-rich land. 

The whole plot of this song’s music video is the implication that one character feels like she’s going crazy, because she slowly is getting an idea of the atrocities being committed in the Middle East, but everyone around her seems just as happy to keep going how they’re going. At the end of the video, she does end up succumbing and just ignoring the atrocities that are actively being committed by her country. 

This song doesn’t require a whole lot of explaining: it makes damn sure that you know exactly what it’s talking about. I just found the concept of it interesting, because frankly, I hadn’t even known that Britain was involved in the same type of deals that America is often criticized for. There is another added layer of interest within this song, as there is the complication that perhaps Britain is able to get away with these crimes more effectively simply because of their perceived, innocent disposition.