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Dry Cleaning - Stumpwork (Album Review)

Friday, 28 October 2022 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Guy Bolongaro

For Dry Cleaning’s second album, the South London quartet have refined the post-punk sound they delivered on their breakthrough record, ‘New Long Leg’, while expanding the topical range of vocalist Florence Shaw’s deadpan singing. Actually ‘singing’ doesn’t quite feel right. What Shaw is doing is closer to spoken word poetry, Sprechgesang, or even sports commentary without the sport. It’s pretty distinctive stuff.

That said, certain influences are hard to miss. Tom Dowse’s guitar strumming pays more than a passing resemblance to that of Smiths legend Johnny Marr, particularly on the wonderful Gary Ashby. This track is a heart-wrenching tale of the titular lost family tortoise, and features one of Shaw’s more melodious vocal performances. It’s surprisingly moving for a song that feels a bit whimsical.

Another clear influence is the US band Pavement. This bleeds through on more grungy electric songs like Driver’s Story and the laconic Conservative Hell. Here, Shaw’s lyrics are at their most conscious and discursive.

The subject of the track, a divided and increasingly impoverished United Kingdom, is tolerated and commented upon with keen-eyed observation and a big dose of humour. 

Towards the end of the track, the opportunity to grandstand is decisively shunned by Shaw. “I wanted to thank you for organising the Edinburgh trip,” Shaw declares seemingly out of nowhere. “Which, apart from what happened to my Kindle, was amazing.” Such a low-key end to a track called Conservative Hell demonstrates a clear-eyed understanding of the emotional timbre Dry Cleaning present. It also gives them a lot of space to build into creatively.

‘Stumpwork’ is not quite a masterpiece, but it’s easy to see a lot of people still listening to this album in 20 years’ time. There are snatches of the United Kingdom  exactly as it feels right now. A bit of a lost, demoralised place with confusing, changing rules but which is nonetheless pretty tolerable through jokes and not giving up.

Dry Cleaning Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue February 14 2023 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Wed February 15 2023 - BELFAST Mandela Hall
Fri February 17 2023 - GLASGOW Barrowland Ballroom
Sat February 18 2023 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Mon February 20 2023 - LIVERPOOL Invisible Wind Factory
Tue February 21 2023 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Wed February 22 2023 - SHEFFIELD O2 Academy Sheffield
Fri February 24 2023 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Sat February 25 2023 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Sun February 26 2023 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Tue February 28 2023 - CARDIFF Tramshed
Wed March 01 2023 - BRIGHTON Chalk
Fri March 03 2023 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton

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