Dent May Dent MayDo This
Dent May was born and bred in Mississippi. His approach is characterised by the sensibility of the Southern States; straightforward, drenched in sunny optimism and good, old fashioned hospitality. However, this is not your typical Mississippi fare. Rather than Delta Blues or classic Country, this is an album of makeshift saccharine pop, informed by the archetypal attitude of his state. The proactively named “Do This” is home-made, wilfully devoid of cynicism and in candid pursuit of giving his audience a good time. We’re talking Deep South DIY.
Like any good Southerner, May’s attitude is decidedly gung ho. Here is a chap whose withdrawal from film school was reportedly prompted by frustration at the lack of action it advocated (forget the complacency of your typical drop-out); the kind of guy who released an album of ukulele driven pop on Paw Tracks (aptly named “The Good Feeling Music Of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukelele”) and founded a creative collective at his “Cats Purring Dude Ranch”. Now, in order to prove he’s not just a one-trick-bronco, he’s released a self-recorded, pointedly ukulele-less album on which he plays every instrument. Accordingly the album’s opening lyric instructs: “when you were young, what did you fantasise your life would be? / Don’t wait for it to come, you’ve got to stand up and do your thing.”
May’s enthusiasm and positivity is infectious. It’s hard not to enjoy an album buoyed by Beach Boys inspired vocal harmonies, splendidly basic drum-machines and playful melodic lines. “Fun”, for example, is a catchy dose of synth-pop, complete with a strident guitar solo, a smattering of samples and a twist of recorder. Think The Magnetic Fields – if Stephen Merritt dropped the irony to pen a rose-tinted, spring-break soundtrack. Similarly “Don’t Wait Too Long” is an endearing slice of dewy-eyed disco, with hints of psychedelia and an unapologetically “funky” bass line.
However, May’s enthusiastic pursuit of consciously naïve pop has its shortfalls; without the support of any semblance of lyrical or melodic complexity “Do This” occasionally grates. “Wedding Day” verges on inane, whilst “Parents” honestly sounds like a Pugwall’s Summer reject. The comparisons he evokes are admirable, but he shies away from underscoring his candid pop with any grit: Jens Lekman without the wit, Jonathan Richman without the searing emotional honesty or Serge Gainsbourg without the sleaze. Without that friction, “Do This” slips away too easily.
On the closing track, “Home Groan”, May croons: “ Don’t want to move to Southern California / I wasn’t really meant for LA / But New York City just ain’t my style / So this town is where I guess I will stay”. I can’t help but wish May would set his metaphoric sights a little further and break out of his comfort zone. “Do This” is competent and pleasantly promising: now it’s time to go on an adventure.