Dent May – Warm Blankets
Love Brian Wilson? You’ll like Dent May. Never has an artist been more unashamedly influenced by the Beach Boy genius, or at least by the late-60s, Sunflower, and Friends-era drug-addled genius. Many of the songs are built around lilting high-end piano themes. They’re usually backed by warm bass-y sounds, comfortable percussion, synthy-strings, and the occasional brass. There isn’t a huge amount of signature Beach Boys harmonizing, but on various outings, notably the wonderful ‘Born Too Late’ and ‘Found A Friend’, Dent sings it high and does a good job on his own. One song after another sounds like it could have come from the tortured but irresistibly melodic mind of the most talented of the Wilson brothers. And yet. And yet. It doesn’t. In part, it’s because there are other influences – The Beatles, Orange Juice, ELO. Mainly, though, it’s because even in the most throwaway Brian Wilson song of his post-Pet Sounds period, there’s a sadness. It might be the melancholy of a particular chord sequence, or the plaintive nature of a certain arrangement. However upbeat, summery, even throwaway the songs sometimes seemed, there lurked a darkness. This was the true Brian Wilson late-60s genius. The combination of the very deliberate orchestral, pocket symphony arrangements, and an unwanted, but inescapable loneliness. By contrast, there’s no darkness on this Dent May album. It’s not that he’s singing about girls, girls, girls, or cars, cars, cars. Leave that to The Explorers Club. It’s the sound. It’s catchy, groovy, and genuinely lovely, but it’s not affecting. Not remotely. More than that, by the late-60s the Beach Boys were a collective. Sure, Brian Wilson’s songs were the best, but others were writing great tunes as well. Here, there’s only Brian’s influence. It’s one goddamn homage after another! But, of course, that’s exactly why this is such a great album. It’s full of beautifully arranged, sumptuously sounding, hook-filled pop songs. What’s not to love?