Post-punk has been making a splash in the 2020s. Superb albums and breakthrough artists are apparent across all platforms. Exciting sounds and new ways of conceiving the genre have produced slick, high-quality albums from the likes of Billy Nomates, Black Country New Road, and Working Men’s Club. The success of these bands has brought a fresh vibe to a music industry that very recently was having an existential crisis about whether it was facing the death of the band or not. With the release of Dry Cleaning’s debut, New Long Leg, this trend doesn’t seem to be ebbing.
Charting at no. 2 on the Official Vinyl Album Charts (at the time of writing) this south-London band’s debut is certainly imbued with a lot of the post-punk wit, eclecticism and even absurdity that contemporaries like Shame have honed to perfection. Dry Cleaning are masters of the spoken word and the illogicality of the everyday. There is a simplistic perfection in their lyricism. Songs like ‘Strong Feelings’ prove that Dry Cleaning are more than a stand-out act but are purveyors of what many of us simply dismiss, making comedy out of the mundane: “They’ve really changed the pace of The Antiques Roadshow / More antiques, more price reveals / Less background information / The reason the price reveals were so good was because we had to wait for them”.
Frontwoman Florence Shaw Holds binds every song together in what could either be meticulously thought-through lyrics, or random observances of a piece of pottery, for instance: “Tin glazed earthenware flower brick painted in blue / On the sloping edge, a vase of flowers / On the front, a Chinese landscape / On the sides, figures in a Dutch landscape”. Throw in the light drums, the fantastic guitar solos and rhythms, the occasional bassline and you have the reason why Dry Cleaning are making such a big splash in the post-punk scene.
Post-punk is a bastard-genre, consistently being stretched by its most exciting protagonists and reaffirmed comfortably and in groovy alternative-rock terms by its more conventional proponents. Dry Cleaning is seemingly in the latter grouping. New Long Leg is by no means a bland album but compared to the more stand-out groups and artists currently operating, this debut feels less out there. This is not a problem by any means and Dry Cleaning is certainly not prosaic – their subtlety is perhaps one of their most attractive features. It is worth listening to Dry Cleaning purely for the guitar solos of Tom Drowse, which when set against Shaw’s lyrics and the temperance provided by Nick Buxton on drums provide each song with ample scope to dazzle the listener with the wacky lyricism.
Their songs are the verbal equivalent of a bag of Haribos – so much flavour and randomness squeezed into such potent and concise songs
It is part of the beauty of post-punk that the music itself and the inherent experimentation of the genre is immediately obvious in the lyrical choices of its artists. Dry Cleaning have a real and even comedic intensity to their lyrics that is obvious and the core feature in each of their tracks. The narrational, listing and occasionally droning style of Shaw makes the tracks feel concise to a point where listening to too many can feel like an overload. “The house is just twelve years old, soft landscaping in the garden / An electrician stuck his finger in the plughole and shouted “Yaba!”.
In their somewhat half-baked epic ending track, ‘Every Day Carry’, Shaw tells us “Drop what you’re doing, let’s get to the tip / Droopy flute solo comes in now / Galump lump”. Whether this is poetic, when mixed with the distortion and guitar solo of the track, is up to you.
Dry Cleaning could either be intoning intensely deep and poetic lyrics or complete nonsense and the listener would struggle to tell the difference. In Dry Cleaning’s terms its all up for grabs in a mish-mash kind of way, but this is where their beauty and entertainment value lie. Their songs are the verbal equivalent of a bag of Haribos – so much flavour and randomness squeezed into such potent and concise songs.
Spoken-word lyrics in post-punk are something of a vogue now but they have certainly found a true home in Dry Cleaning, despite the talent of other leads like Charlie Steen and Isaac Wood. More vocal sonic diversity in this album would be a nice touch, and I for one would love to hear more experimentation from Dry Cleaning. With this debut, they have certainly carved out a good space for themselves in the long, confusing corridors of post-punk.
(Image credits: Steve Gullick)