Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg: Album Review

Dry Cleaning release their debut long player following two stellar EP’s that did the job in whetting the whistle.

Release Date: 2nd April 2021

Label: 4AD

Formats: Vinyl / CD / Cassette / DL

Put ‘dry’ in front of many other words (skin, eyes, humping, January) and it usually makes life proportionately more unpleasant. Suggest ‘cleaning’ to a lot of people and they’ll give you a decent list of reasons why they pressingly need to do something else. The two words together on a garment’s care label makes for a good reason to avoid buying it.

With their two previous EPs and now the album New Long Leg, however, the phrase ‘Dry Cleaning’ has acquired a fresh appeal that fully transcends the act of hauling your manky duvet into the shop to be fumigated. This four-piece serves up imagistic snapshots of mundanity and abstraction, fragments of 2020s existentialism, wonked up to eleven. And beyond. The spoken word is set to predominantly post-punk arrangements, with shadowy Gothic basslines and occasional dustings of psychedelic guitar. Their recent releases have unsurprisingly found a home in people’s hearts, reflecting, no doubt, how familiar mundanity and abstraction have become, after having lived with them intensively for the last twelve months.

As soon as you find out that the band’s lyricist and vocalist, Florence Shaw, is a visual artist and drawing teacher, you’re not surprised in the slightest. Dry Long Leg is decidedly word-and-image-heavy for an album, full of vignettes that feel paradoxical – obscure, trivial images, mixing with frequently emotive observations on human behaviour – from narrators whom we never quite get to know. We are rarely aware of a coherent, continuous set of images and thoughts, but drawn to the characters and drawn into wondering what the bloody hell’s going on (and going to happen next). In the latter sense, it’s so 2021.

Scratchcard Lanyard has our narrator declaring, “I just need to be weird and hide for a bit and eat an old sandwich from my bag,” “I’ve come to hand weave my own bunk bed ladder,” and “I think of myself as a hardy banana with that waxy surface.” On Her Hippo, she tells us, “I’d like to run away with you on a plane, but don’t bring those loafers.” Someone pissed on my leg in the big Sainsbury’s,” is one revelation on the track John Wick. As well as these tales of the unexpected, we are asked questions that we’ve certainly never had to ponder before, such as, “Would you choose a dentist with a messy back garden like that?” on the album’s title track.

At 499 words, the melancholy final song, Every Day Carry is as long as a short story, but a story characterised by wandering-mind non-sequiturs. The image of a singular tree, the only one left after clearance to make a motorway, runs straight into, “Two fingers up to you, you wastrel; that’s my shopping trolley you’re approaching.” Fans of the 2020 album The Goat, by John MOuse, will appreciate the frequency and scope of Dry Cleaning’s topic shifts, from the production style of The Antiques Roadshow, through the possible existence of ‘reverse platform shoes’ that make you shorter, to the ‘famous anamorphic’ in the foreground of Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’ which, on inspection, resembles a human skull.

Shaw captures the mood of the whole album on Her Hippo with the tagline, “More espresso, less depresso.” Life, of late, has been anything but caffeinated. New Long Leg brings a timely dose of stimulation.

Listen to Unsmart Lady from Dry Cleaning, below:

Dry Cleaning: Bandcamp / Webstore / Facebook / YouTube

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