By Hannah Forsyth
Coming off the success of their 2019 double EP debut that entranced fans with sardonic vocal musings delivered over restless guitars and rumbling bass, Dry Cleaning have returned with their first album, New Long Leg (released April 2 via 4AD). According to vocalist Florence Shaw, the album’s title is ambiguous and could refer to “an expensive present or a growth or a table repair.” Written partially in isolation and recorded mid-2020 in Wales, this album leans further into the depths of fuzzy brain and the existential mundanity of modern life, and less so on the nostalgia-tinged dreampop of their past releases, Sweet Princess and Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks.
New Long Leg is filled with a familiar type of interjecting lyrical detritus that is indistinguishable as dialogue or inner monologue, as if too nonsensical to be either. Shaw’s songwriting takes inspiration from a notes app archive of snippets of overheard conversations and internet comments as well as adopting character perspectives. The result is a distracted confusion, a mind wandering not only from the present but from reality, an escapist dissociation from the trials and tribulations of existing.
“Scratchcard Lanyard” opens with rumbling bass, punctuated by sparkling guitar foiling the deadpan vocal delivery, crafting a suspenseful scavenger hunt of incongruous objects and tasks of questionable relative meaning. “Unsmart Lady” is dripping with disdain and grungy swagger as Shaw reclaims misogynist taunts. “Strong Feelings” captures the painful loneliness of not being able to share passing thoughts with a loved one.
As the album settles into a rhythm, the lyrics oscillate between confusion and spite as it explores an unbearable holiday, resentment in relationships, and coping with the changing times. There are momentary escapes with “New Long Leg” and “More Big Birds,” where Shaw slips into absentminded melodies, as if riffing to occupy time in a state of anxiety-induced brain fog. Later, the closer “Every Day Carry,” builds from an intimate confessional list of pensées to a release of swirling psychedelic guitars, accentuated with distortion reminiscent of the buzzing thoughts that follow us around as we go about our lives.
Like every other band making remotely interesting guitar music in South London and its environs, Dry Cleaning have been roped into the post-punk pseudo-scene. While one might be tempted to compare their prominent basslines and motorik beats to bands like Shame or liken their hodgepodge stream of consciousness lyricism to that of Black Country, New Road, they prefer not to be defined by genre. This album displays their relative maturity and seasoned perspective on the banality of life as opposed to the urgency and provocation of their younger contemporaries. That being said, New Long Leg resonates a little too much with the collective mental toll of the last year, leaving me missing the nostalgic enchantment of their previous releases.
Keep up to date with Dry Cleaning and check out their new record on your favorite streaming platforms!