Album Review: Dry Cleaning’s “New Long Leg”

By: Samantha Eddy
Dry Cleaning in London 2021. Photo Courtesy of Rosie Alice via Rolling Stone.

The London group Dry Cleaning has just released their first debut album, New Long Leg, which was produced by John Parish (who has also worked with artists such as PJ Harvey and Aldous Harding). The tetrad, made up of front woman Florence Shaw (vocalist/songwriter), Nick Buxton (drummer), Tom Dowse guitarist), and Lewis Maynard (bassist), have a handful of EPs and singles strapped under their belt: ‘Sweet Princess’ (2019), ‘Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks’ (2019), ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’ (2020), ‘Strong Feelings’ (2021), ‘Oblivion’ (2021), and ‘Unsmart Lady’ (2021). 

A bit of a backstory behind the band’s formation: Back in 2017, Tom Dowse suggested Florence Shaw join his band (made up of himself, Nick Buxton, and Lewis Maynard) after he became compelled by her thoughts and the way she expresses them in her singing. The group started out as being described as post-punk by the Fall, Magazine, and Wire, and was quickly shoved into the group with Black Country, black midi, and New Road. They dealt with quite a bit of hate from commenters on YouTube, who claimed they were a rip-off Sonic Youth, which is an American rock band that was formed in the 80’s. 

With Shaw now a member of the band, their first debut album was eventually produced. “Through the specificity of her affect and observations on the world, the band’s debut album arrives fully formed, ready to evacuate the contents of your brain and replace them with the odd images, bizarre obsessions, vivid sense memories, and banal judgements that live rent-free in the mind of another,” Pitchfork beautifully explains. With singles ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’, ‘Strong Feelings’, and ‘Unsmart Lady’ previously released as openers for the new album, fans were already able to get a sense of how incredibly outstanding New Long Leg would be. As Pitchfork puts it, “The London art-rockers’ outstanding debut is a droll album full of surreal images, bizarre obsessions, and sense memories. The cumulative effect of Florence Shaw’s narration is inexplicably wonderful.” Watch the music videos for ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’, ‘Strong Feelings’, and ‘Unsmart Lady’ below!

Compared to Dry Cleaning’s previously released tracks, New Long Leg introduces musical contrast like you’ve never seen it before. “The band…sounds more adventurous – darker and dubbier at times, but also fizzy with touches of indie-pop synths and guitar jangle,” describes Pitchfork. Shaw’s singing is what sets apart the band’s previous releases from New Long Leg, as the sharp vocals are calibrated for maximum effect. Not only are her vocals empowering to the track, Shaw has an interesting technique: she uses writing exercises, her own reflections, a personal archive of online comments, and a collection of eavesdropped conversations. With these tools, Shaw puts herself in a new headspace that allows for perspective changes, decontextualization, and recontextualization to create lyrics that tell a complete story. Pitchfork perfectly describes Shaw’s talent with, “There are echoes of Black Sabbath, the Smiths, the Strokes, even Wilco on the closest things to a ballad, ‘More Big Birds’. But it amounts to something tougher and more original than merely the sum of classically cool influences – a sound that activates Shaw’s disparate imagery, making the setting seem more dangerous.”

In the title track of the album, ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’, we get an excellent taste of Shaw’s approach: “I think of myself as a hardy banana with that waxy surface and the small delicate flowers/A woman in aviators firing a bazooka.” These lines are vocalized from the perspective of a mother on edge – and they do an excellent job at expressing emotion in such a vivid, yet complex way. ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’ also features these confusing lyrics: “Are there some kind of reverse platforms, shoes that make you go into the ground more, make you reach a lower level?” Aside from Shaw’s intimate and mystical right-up-in-your-ear vocalizing, what in the world could she possibly mean by that line? Is she attempting to explain the way she sees the world? What message is she trying to relay?

Dry Cleaning’s ‘John Wick’ from New Long Leg has a fair amount of confusion tied to it as well. First, the song doesn’t have much at all to do with the film John Wick. Pitchfork describes this song’s storytelling as “The act of pressing the listener to connect the contextual dots from a random hippo to oven chips to a song called ‘John Wick’.” Though it may not be at all clear what Shaw is putting out there, her creative approach is surely beneficial to the band’s likeliness and success. Be sure to check out the album on Spotify!

In addition to their first debut album, Dry Cleaning also announced their 2021-2022 world tour earlier this year, so check out the tour dates below!

New Long Leg Tracklist:

  • 01 Scratchcard Lanyard
  • 02 Unsmart Lady
  • 03 Strong Feelings
  • 04 Leafy05 Her Hippo
  • 06 New Long Leg
  • 07 John Wick
  • 08 More Big Birds
  • 09 A.L.C
  • 10 Every Day Carry

2021-2022 World Tour Dates:

  • 11-10 Los Angeles, CA – Teragram
  • 11-11 San Francisco, CA – Chapel
  • 11-13 Portland, OR – Vitalidad
  • 11-14 Seattle, WA – Crocodile 
  • 11-17 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle
  • 11-20 Brooklyn, NY – Market Hotel
  • 01-19 Paris, France – La Maroquinerie
  • 01-20 Lyon, France – Le Périscope
  • 01-21 Milan, Italy – Circolo Magnolia
  • 01-22 Bologna, Italy – Covo Club
  • 01-24 Vienna, Austria – Chelsea
  • 01-25 Prague, Czech Republic – Futurum
  • 01-26 Berlin, Germany – Zukunft am Ostkreuz
  • 01-28 Copenhagen, Denmark  – Loppen
  • 01-29 Hamburg, Germany – Molotow
  • 01-31 Nijmegen, Netherlands – Doornroosje
  • 02-01 Brussels, Belgium – Orangerie, Botanique
  • 02-02 Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso Noord    
  • 02-04 Rotterdam, Netherlands – Rotown
  • 02-05 Lille, France – Le Grand Mix
  • 02-14 Liverpool, England – Arts Club Theatre
  • 02-15 Dublin, Ireland – The Button Factory
  • 02-16 Belfast, Ireland – Empire Music Hall
  • 02-18 Edinburgh, Scotland – Summerhall
  • 02-19 Glasgow, Scotland – Queen Margaret Union
  • 02-20 Leeds, England – Brudenell Social Club
  • 02-22 Birmingham, England – The Mill
  • 02-23 Bristol, England – SWX
  • 02-25 Manchester, England – Academy 2
  • 02-26 Sheffield, England – Leadmill
  • 02-27 Nottingham, England – Rescue Rooms
  • 03-01 Portsmouth, England – Wedgewood Rooms
  • 03-02 Brighton, England – Concorde 2
  • 03-03 London, England – O2 Forum Kentish Town 

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