Dent May: Across the Multiverse

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

With his fourth full-length, tunesmith Dent May finally settles into a persona well-suited to his particular brand of technicolor retro-pop, resulting in one of the best pop albums of 2017.

Dent May

Across the Multiverse

Label: Carpark
US Release Date: 2017-08-18
UK Release Date: 2017-08-18

For his latest hook-laden exploration of pop’s sunnier end of the retro-spectrum, Dent May taps into his inner Todd Rundgren/Jeff Lynne/Harry Nilsson/et. al. to create a throwback collection of technicolor bursts of pure pop perfection. Opening track “Hello Cruel World” serves as a statement of purpose as well as proper scene-setter for what is to come on this, his fourth full-length, Across the Multiverse. “Hello cruel world, are you real or just a dream? / And will I ever find some meaning like them pretty folks on TV?” he sings before bidding farewell to a former flame: “So long my love, I’ve got to do this on my own / Submit myself to the unknown / I’m just a freak without a home.” Rather than being maudlin or navel-gazing, May’s approach is one better suited to the psychedelic supper club set, all casual swaying, gauzy instrumentation and soaring falsetto.

Where before May alternated between the vaudevillian and twee (The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele) and the synth-tinged (Warm Blanket) as if in search of his true musical persona, here he settles in perfectly from the start, sounding comfortably in control of the vibrant sonic palette he employs throughout. Rebuffing the less-is-more axiom in favor of pure pop maximalism, May builds towering monuments to the music he loves throughout, finding a firmly established base upon which to erect his shimmering versions of what Brian Wilson called his “teenaged symphonies to God". Indeed, this is music more in the vein of Wilson’s exploratory reimagining of the potential of pop more than half a century ago than anything else Dent has managed to date, despite the residual presence of synths and a handful of dance beats (particularly on the Frankie Cosmos’ guest-starring title track).

“Picture on a Screen” builds from an antiquated dial-up internet connection sample to pleasantly propulsive bit of low-key pop and finally into an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink orchestral explosion replete with horns, strings, a cascading synth line and pounding piano line. It’s a euphoric co-mingling of all the disparate parts of his musical persona coming together in one fully realized package. It’s a magnificent moment of personal triumph and quiet confidence, one well-earned given his compositional strength throughout and his willingness to go big in service to the song rather than simply because he can. In this, Across the Multiverse is more art than artifice.

May’s voice is more often than not reminiscent of Girls’ Christopher Owens (particularly on “Dream 4 Me” which could just as easily have been a lost track from the late, beloved band), all soft edges and soaring melodic lifts that eventually settle into a lower-range, full-throated tone lifted straight from a young Elvis Costello. “Take Me to Heaven” is a 21st century take on the Bee Gees with a falsetto chorus far more angelic than anything the Brothers Gibb managed behind Barry’s gratingly strident approach. But it’s not all “spot the reference” or derivative pop predicated on its predecessors. May is in and of himself a unique voice, a pop tunesmith of the highest order willing to follow his creative muse wherever it may lead (see “Face Down in the Gutter of Your Love” for one of the best examples of this).

Possessed of a healthy knowledge of pop’s past regarding its biggest sellers and greatest creative visionaries, May puts forth an unironic, lovingly-crafted collection of pure pop bliss that, were it not produced in an era over complete and total market oversaturation, would be destined to become a classic. With any luck, Across the Multiverse will find its audience. Whether it happens now or a half century on is another matter entirely. Regardless, Across the Multiverse is one of the best pop albums to have been released in 2017, a year in which a sunny, infectious distraction is a welcome relief from the darkness permeating our day-to-day as the world edges just that much closer to complete and total destruction at the hands of petulant man-children. If nothing else, “I’m Gonna Live Forever Until I’m Dead” will be the perfect dance anthem to put on at maximum volume as we collectively watch the world burn around us.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.