Dry Cleaning, “New Long Leg”

Dry Cleaning
New Long Leg
4AD
8/10

When done right, it’s hard to beat post-punk. Sure, critics have cashed many a paycheck describing the genre as “angular,” and bands have toured the country by sounding just a little bit different than Wire, but when a band comes along that genuinely attempts to capture the style from a new viewpoint, the results can be thrilling.

Dry Cleaning are thrilling. I don’t think the ol’ 4AD co-sign means as much as it used to, but it’s easy to imagine it being important as hell to a British band that grew up on ’80s and ’90s post-punk. The band apparently formed after a karaoke night and quickly began rehearsing—guitarist Tom Dowse had some music he’d been working on with band members Lewis Maynard (bass) and Nick Buxton (drums), and he played it for Florence Shaw, a friend he’d run into at a mutual’s exhibition. Shaw joined the band, the group recorded two stellar EPs, signed to 4AD, and are now getting reviewed across most esteemed publications.

While the playing is crisp, tight, and angular (sorry, old habits die hard), Shaw’s sardonic, biting delivery steals the show and elevates the album to great heights. “Strong Feelings” is pushed along by a simple 1/8th note bassline, a simple backdrop for Shaw to free-associate some brilliant lyrics—the best of which, “Just an emo dead stuff collector,” is about to get tattooed across my forehead. It’s impossible to replicate Shaw’s level of cool, which is why I’m convinced she’s actually that cool and not some poser hiding behind great imitation abilities. The nuances are too hard to re-sketch, the little tics impossible to dissect. 

Shaw is the coolest new front-person in rock ’n’ roll, an anachronistic icon moon-beamed to save us from a staid indie rock future. “Leafy” is a nice little dancefloor jam, flush with woozy synths, a clean bassline, and piercing guitar chords. The tune would sound nice on a playlist with The Rapture, a cool comedown from the all-night rave. It’s hard to capture what about Shaw’s delivery is so appealing, but it’s both conversational and deeply instructive, like a guided meditation through the world of Dry Cleaning. The group has been buzzing for a while, and as is too rarely the case, New Long Leg lives up to the hype and builds upon it, imagining a future in which a new crop of bands long to mimic their style.

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