REVIEW: Dent May & his Magnificent Ukele - The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele

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You gotta hand it to Dent May. There's been an explosion of great artists in the past few years who have turned to, shall we say, more ethnic folk sounds to make their indie rock. From the Balkanized sound of A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Beirut, and Man Man to the afro-inspired tracks of Vampire Weekend and Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion, it's as if Harry Smith went global, infusing your non-mainstream sounds with folk music from other cultures, other lands and other times. Dent May leans that way as well, but his tunes are openly ironic sardonic tales of losers doing theater, the impossibility of trying to get people to dance, and reefer-smoking kids working minium wage jobs while thinking their better than you. It's a sound that owes more to other great ironists like Randy Newman (pre-Hollywood scholck) and Serge Gainsborough.

May's music is poppy enough to underscore a 60s swinger film, but filled with enough disdain to make the hipsters seem coy. Take the lyrics to "College Town Boy": "He's smoking reefer every day now / His tastes are awfully high-brow / College Town Boy get off your ass and do something." All the while you're singing along, you may also get the feeling that you're being indicted. "Meet Me in the Garden" juxtaposes a bucolic lover's rendezvous with domestic violence -- "I only hurt you 'cuz I love you." "At the Academic Conference" portrays academics as boozing, floozy brains who wear their heart on their sleeves, hypocritically showing up for "for the booze."

If mockery is the sincerest form of flattery, then there are a lot of folks being flattered in this album. The sound even seems to take a couple pot shots at the unwavering earnestness of Zach Condon, taking the instrument (the ukele) that proclaimed "If I was young, I'd flee this town" and flipping it around to say "lately I've been drinking every night / I'm over being sober / I'm an alcoholic." Maybe I'm reading too much into the instrument choice, but it's impossible to ignore the uke on this album, after all it is Dent May and his Magnificent Ukele, which does sound magnificent on this album. For such a small 4 stringed thing, it's incredible the amount of melodies that fly out of the sound hole. If there's one criticism that I could level at this album, I'd point to songs which sound like the previous, moments where the uke isn't as versitile as it has been, but overall, when you're dropping this much irony and with such rivieting sounds, it's hard to raise too much of a fuss.

1 comment:

  1. Gotta say, i was real ready not to like Mays stuff. I was thumbing through the old Paste rag, saw his picture and thought, "I need to listen to his music, because if his music doesnt live up to his hipster overload image, I will find him and punch him facially."
    Turns out it was quite acceptional. I saw he was on Paw Tracks, so that shouldve tipped me off to begin with. Nice review.