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CD of The Week

Week of 4/12/21

    Dry Cleaning - New Long Leg (4AD)

    British four-piece Dry Cleaning got their start as three London musicians who’d been in and out of bands over the years and were making another go of it. Guitarist Tom Dowse invited his art school friend Florence Shaw to join the lineup, even though she wasn’t really a singer and considered herself a visual artist first and foremost. However, Shaw opted to front the band essentially as a spoken word performer.

    After making their presence known in 2019 with the Meghan Markle-adjacent single “Magic of Meghan,” Dry Cleaning’s debut album New Long Leg has arrived. Shaw’s droll spoken vocals, with the occasional ear-catching inflections, truly catch your attention. Her lyrics are somewhere between the William S. Burroughs-style cut-and-paste technique and dropping in on bits and pieces of a story. She’ll make an emotional connection with a lyric like “Do everything/Feel nothing,” or confound by asking “Are there llama plushies here in this shop?,” or amuse by noting that “I’ve been thinking about eating that hot dog for hours.” “John Wick” has nothing to do with the Keanu action franchise but it does have some musings about the Antiques Roadshow. In “Strong Feelings,” Shaw calls herself “an emo dead stuff collector, things just come to the brain,” which seems like a great encapsulation of her writing.

    However, Shaw’s unique style wouldn’t work if it didn’t have a solid bed of music under it, full of post-punk riffs and grooves. There are notable Joy Division influences in there, sometimes bringing to mind a spryer Interpol, with some Sonic Youth for good measure. Don’t miss the heavier grunge riffage from Dowse on “Unsmart Lady.” Bassist Lewis Maynard holds things down throughout, especially on the rhythmic “More Big Birds.”

    As you’d expect, after 40+ min, Dry Cleaning’s sound gets a bit one-note, with no real variety across the 10 songs. That said, Shaw’s style and her bandmates’ musical chops bring something intriguing that only comes with the clean slate of a new band.

    Review by Joey O.

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