ALBUM REVIEW: Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg
Photo Credit: Steve Gullick
South London post-punk outfit Dry Cleaning have been quietly building a cult following since the release of their Sweet Princess EP back in 2018. Following this up with 2019’s Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks EP, the band have established their own unique sound.
Their brand of spoken word vocals and moody instrumentals has caught the eye of many a hardcore music fan, deservedly receiving heavy backing from the likes of BBC Radio 6.
Dry Cleaning‘s uniqueness stems from former drawing lecturer Florence Shaw’s vocals. They are exactly what you would imagine a female Baxter Dury to sound like. Her monotone delivery and unconventional lyricism make her a female gem in a male-dominated post-punk industry.
Lead single and fitting album opener Scratchcard Lanyard starts as the album means to go on. Beginning with a saucy as hell bassline, sweetly complimented by Tom Dowse’s playful guitarwork and Nick Buxton’s vintage punky drumming, it is a recipe the band eat like cold ice cream on a scorching summer’s day.
The track features Shaw rambling on about how she is going to be fine, because she is going to be weird and hide for a bit and then eat an old sandwich from her bag in one line. Some other favourite lines of ours are “Alright you big loud mouth, and thanks very much for the Twix”, and the way Shaw thinks of herself as a “hardy banana with that waxy surface and the small delicate flowers.”
Unsmart Lady shows Shaw murmuring confusing lyrics over a simplistic riff in a fairly uneventful track, which does tread the line of weird and unique very tightly. It’s not a bad track, per se, but the song does pass you by a smidgen.
Strong Feelings and Leafy are a definite return to form, as Dry Cleaning are at their finest when the song is based around Shaw’s observations of what is going on around her. The repetition in Strong Feelings of “just an emo dead stuff collector” followed by lyrics which sound like the blurting out of a drunk who is minutes away from passing out, are fantastic.
Another highlight is Shaw’s advice in Leafy about never slagging off your ex by repeating the word “never” six times, just to ensure that you are aware that if you do, “then they know”. It is a rare, serious moment in her ramblings where she forces you to pay attention. Although, Her Hippo flat-out refuses to carry on this theme, as Shaw goes on to claim “I’m a devious snake and I keep it in my wig room.”
Title-track New Long Leg is possibly the band’s instrumentation at their very best. As the gentle intro slips into a controlled explosion of dirty bass and a lead riff that sounds like its coming straight off Johnny Marr’s guitar, it is not to be missed.
The words of “would you choose a dentist with a messy back garden like that? I don’t think so” announce the arrival of this chorus. This is a question that has admittedly never popped into many of our heads – but Shaw makes it a question worth considering… in her own ‘silly’ way.
As we mentioned earlier, Dry Cleaning have an instrumental blueprint that they stick to quite tightly, which can get a bit repetitive over the course of 41 and a half minutes. This is evident in John Wick and A.L.C., which all have captivating lyrics, and the same reliable and repetitive bass tone and guitar pieces, but at times, the album is crying out for something experimental.
The petite piano bridge in More Big Birds is exquisite and shows the band are not as one-dimensional as they are choosing to be – so they do tease this ability of being able to do more intermittently. To their credit, you do get excessively strong experimentation in the finale Every Day Carry – whether you like it or despise it.
We say this because it does not work with the album flow one bit. The song basically works as one song, an interlude, followed by another song. Its trippy two minutes and interlude sounds like a guitar crying for help and is distressing to listen to at times. As you finally pass that interlude, the Dry Cleaning we know comes back on the track with probably one of their best pieces of music on the album, and you are left wondering what the hell was that?
Overall, despite ending on a strange note, Dry Cleaning’s debut is thoroughly enjoyable. Shaw’s vocal performance makes her stand out as having all the potential to be a modern-day post-punk great, potentially at the level a singer like Mark E Smith is regarded at. Backed by a band who produce instrumentals that hang on her every word, it is a process that works more often than it does not.
Standout Tracks: Scratchcard Lanyard, Strong Feelings, New Long Leg
For Fans Of: The Fall, Do Nothing, Baxter Dury
Written By: Joe Loughran