We’ve been eagerly the debut album from London’s Dry Cleaning since they blew away all who witnessed them with some of this material at last year’s DIY, Why Not? Festival. Since then they announced their signing to 4AD, postponed a billion tour dates because of COVID and recorded their debut album, ‘New Long Leg’ with producer John Parish (Aldous Harding, PJ Harvey).
So, now that it’s here is it everything we were hoping for? Does it live up to the two superb EPs that came before it?
Well, they make a great start. The instant impact of the heavy grooving single ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’ immediately puts us at ease. Lewis Maynard’s ripping bassline and Tom Dowse’s catchy guitar hooks perfectly accompany Florence Shaw’s bizarre word nuggets.
“Weak arms can’t open the door, kung fu cancel…I’ve come here to make a ceramic shoe and I’ve come to smash what you made.”
The bold statement opener is followed by the new single, the hilariously titled “Unsmart Lady” The intense, free opening belies the lumbering heavy chops that follow. Dowse clearly had fun with his pedals with the bursts of delay and wah. It breaks into a rocking riff and squealing feedback, while Shaw’s vocal retains her now trademark deadpan composure throughout.
The assault of singles continues with the almost disco of
The minimal bass and drums, and building percussion of “Stong Feelings” provide an infectious groove similar to Life Without Buildings’ “Juno”. Dowse’s guitar winds in, throwing shapes akin to Les Savy Fav without the barking lunatic up front. There are intriguing turns at every corner in Shaw’s lyrics. Her collage approach has an air of sentimentality akin to the title. It’s about the closest we get to a ballad. Whilst there are overheard conversations and newspaper cutouts at play, you wonder if there are personal moments too.
“Long and lean and young and lovely, you just want to be liked, I like you, stay”
‘Leafy’, the first track that we’ve not previously heard, follows. This provides a breather from the three single combo. It’s far more understated, bringing down the pace and the volume, set to a constant hum, with lighter hooks. Again there’s the inevitable comparison to Life Without Buildings. There are moments where you can imagine Shaw sitting at the back of the bus taking notes, earwigging a fellow passenger’s telephone conversation: “What are the things that you have to clear out? Baking powder, big jar of mayonnaise, what about all the uneaten sausages?”
You might think it would be easy to get tired of Shaw’s vocal approach but the lyrics breathe new life into every song. The bizarre non-sequiturs are often hilarious and continue to catch you off guard. ‘Her Hippo’ is no different in this respect. Nick Buxton’s motorik drumming and musical repetition are hypnotic. This is until lines like “The last thing I looked at in this hand mirror was a human arsehole” jump out from nowhere.
Title track ‘New Long Leg’ sees Shaw break out into a short melody for the first time and play with vocal affectations.
Characteristic of her understated approach, her melody is to no more than a quick “doo doo doo”. The accompanying tight and tense jam also highlights Dowse’s busy chorus effected guitar, which shimmers and bends over the top.
I instantly remember the following track being aired at the aforementioned DIY, Why Not Festival. They introduced the song with the working title “John Wick”. It’s nice to see they stuck with this even though the film is not mentioned once in the song. It’s certainly catchier than “someone pissed on my leg in the big Sainsbury’s”. This is a great, expansive and moody jam. A brooding highlight.
‘More Big Birds’ kicks off with an awesome bouncy ball drumbeat and slick, punchy bassline. It’s adds several new points of interest with Shaw’s doubled vocal, whirling keyboards and twinkling piano.
Shaw again treats us to some melody with the Broadcast-like “Da da da’s.”
Given the only vocal melodies are to a “doo doo doo” and “da da da”, you can’t help but wonder if this a secret reference to The Police or just a coincidence.
There is something Blur-like about ‘A.L.C’. Buxton’s minimal drumbeat, Dowse’s warbly guitar and Maynard’s moody bass line recall tracks like ‘Theme From Retro’ and ‘I’m Just A Killer For Your Love’.
Dry Cleaning leave their most ambitious track to date until the end. ‘Every Day Carry’ begins with light flanging guitar notes and a revolving bassline, creating a hazy atmosphere. As this evolves they introduce doubled up vocal bursts and stuttering synth sounds.
The instructive lyric “droopy flute solo comes in now” introduces exactly what Shaw asks for, only it gets intersected by scuzzy distortion. This eventually breaks down to endulge in weird droning loops before launching into a brilliant jam. There’s still time for some choice imagery such as “A roast potato on a long branch” and “your own personal fatberg, homemade”.
There are insults traded and the affecting “I just want to put something positive into the world but it’s hard because I’m so full of poisonous rage”. Fittingly they close the curtains on the line “Curtains always closed”. One final image of domesticity amongst an album peppered with them.
It’s not always as instantly catchy as the two EPs but ‘New Long Leg’ is a slightly different beast. The songs are more expansive, the production is slicker. It’s still the Dry Cleaning we love, just with a newly tailored suit.
New Long Leg is out today via 4AD.
You may enjoy this if you like: Life Without Buildings, Les Savy Fav, The Fall