“Remember Alf?” exclaims Millhouse in a particularly memorable Simpsons episode. “He’s back. In Pog form!” It is, arguably, one of the finer verbal moments from Bart’s bespectacled best buddy. In the same way, it’s good to see Dent May back in action with his new record, Do Things. 2009’s curiously appealing Good Feeling Music Of Dent May And His Ukulele Orchestra was gloriously ramshackle, with the jewel in the crown being the cautionary tale of hosting a bad soiree, You Can’t Force A Dance Party. But that was then, and this is now, and packed with a fuller, more conventional sound, it’s a case of “Dent’s back! In POP form”.
If his previous effort was something of a pop oddity, his latest effort continues the trend. The overall sound is some warped hybrid of Jim Noir-meets-Jonathan Richman-meets-Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, and it gives a gentle nod to the likes of Summer Camp in sounding simultaneously retro and current. All of those elements come together best on the sauntering breezy pop tones of Parents, which seemingly sees May desparately trying to hang onto the last threads of his youth, crooning “we don’t want to be just like our parents”.
Elsewhere, album opener Rent Money, resplendent in its quasi hip-hop beats as it is, does the unthinkable and out-Beach Boys the Beach Boys (well, on their last offering anyway). It demonstrates a knack for a rich patchwork of vocal harmonies, wheeled out again for the album’s title track, a song which already sounds like a loose Brian Wilson ballad and finds May inspiring the listener to “do things your own way”, like a languid take on Eddie & The Hot Rods‘ Do Anything You Wanna Do. The new, fuller sound comes into its own on lead single Fun, the shuffling breezy pop of Wedding Day, and the surprisingly percussive record-ending Home Groan. The amalgam of wafer-thin trebly guitars, keys, slinky basslines and vocal harmonies makes a decent stab at wrestling the title of ‘sound of summer’ from the myriad of other pretenders and upstarts due out over the summer period.
Whilst not a world-beating record (not that it ever claims to be), Do Things represents an admirable sonic development for May and co. Packed full of songs to wile away summers to come, it feels like an undiscovered soundtrack to summers past as well. With its sing-along harmonies and evocatively hazy, woozy, sun-drenched imagery, it demonstrates that the songwriting craft that liberally peppered Do Things’ ukulele-led predecessor is just as effective as ever. May retains flourishes and touches to make an intriguing record that holds up after multiple listens. To paraphrase a certain Simpsons character: “Everything’s coming up May-house”.