Straight to the pointless: Dry Cleaning’s debut album New Long Leg is a masterful and unpretentious ode to the mundane.
In the 60s we sung about war, about liberation, about revolt. In the 80s through to the 00s it was all heroin, sex and indulgence. So what is it now? Looking back at themes of debauchery, of vagrancy and of bad decisions, the modern artist must find distinction not within the known, but rather the other.
Throughout their debut LP New Long Leg, South London’s Dry Cleaning find themselves in such a position. Occupying the untouched void between poetic brilliance and sheer blandness, singer and lyricist Florence Shaw talks of hot dogs, oven chips, dentist’s gardens and solutions for damp. Supplied with an expressive yet disciplined canvas of guitars and drums, New Long Leg contains some of the most absurdly brilliant tales of observation that the post-punk genre has likely ever seen.
Emerging in 2019 with EPs Sweet Princess and Boundary Road Snacks, Dry Cleaning have quickly become a major topic of London’s post-punk conversation. Striking an astute balance of primitive instrumentals and dour left-field prose, songs such as ‘Viking Hair’ and ‘Magic of Meghan’ have already made their mark on the London music scene. Since those earlier releases, the band have shifted their focus towards finding space in their music. In New Long Leg the musical space is conscious and preserved; a result of the band developing a “near-psychic knowledge of how to leave the right amount of space for each other in their songs”. Whether it be in the ‘Come Together’-inspired drums of ‘More Big Birds’, or the hypnotic, irremovable bass groove of ‘Strong Feelings’ — Dry Cleaning’s sound is as much about what you can’t hear as it is what you can.
Once paired with the alluring, formidable lyrics of Shaw, these intervals of music tend to become their own instrument altogether. Against the sparse guitar inflections and Shaw’s perpetual atonality, there lies a space that draws the listener closer, towards an atmosphere that has one yearning for a deeper meaning, something beyond the words and between the lines. When lyrics such as “I don’t know how I feel he’s fit but I think he might be” are immediately followed by “Residual Pop Rock in the mouth of your cab driver,” we’re left wondering if we’ve been led astray. If what we’re seeing is really there, and if we should analyse just a little more. In truth though, these lyrics aren’t riddled with buried clues of the creator. Though they may seem like they’re hiding something, what’s there is there.
According to Shaw, lyrical themes can be “a feeling of alienation, paranoia and worry, but also a joyful revelling in household things”. In a world where an artist’s source of validation is woven in the abstract cloth of social media and the internet, Dry Cleaning are the celebration of the simple and of the unremarkable. Whilst basking in topics devoid of relevance and reason, they give elegance to the mundane and humanity to themselves. In 42 minutes of music, there is rarely a peak, nor a climax, or anything that could draw the spotlight in a particular direction. As a listening experience, New Long Leg is beautifully candid. It cuts and digs delicately, but only if you want it to.
Dry Cleaning’s New Long Leg is out this Friday via 4AD, and is available to pre-save and pre-order here