Dry Cleaning - Stumpwork (4AD) 1
Stumpwork by Dry Cleaning Album Cover 2022 Photography: Annie Collinge Creative Direction: Rottingdean Bazaar

Dry Cleaning – Stumpwork (4AD)

There are some acts who can be reviewed whilst driving, gardening or reading. Dry Cleaning are not one of those acts, and so after several listens attempting to get on with other things I sat down to devote my complete attention to this album. Out of respect to them and indeed to you, dear reader, I advise you to do the same thing. You’ll thank me later. I know I’m thanking myself…

For those of you who have yet to hear Dry Cleaning, there really are few acts like them. Florence Shaw isn’t a conventional lead singer, but more of a poet. Yet it isn’t simply a case of them just providing a backing to her words, the sublime instrumentation of the band (bassist Lewis Maynard, guitarist Tom Dowse, and drummer Nick Buxton) is in itself glorious. They never seem to repeat themselves either; at different times, you might call it post-punk, at other times jangle-pop or post-rock (yes, all on the same record. If we were still in the era of mp3 blogs they would have had a field day with this band!) There may be plenty of acts that I hear aspects of here but won’t list. Just focus on what’s at hand.

And it’s great to see a band who can write songs about the mundane and yet not be merely kitchen sink drama. One of the tracks, which even features Ms. Shaw getting very close to singing is ‘Gary Ashby.’ This song follows the travails of a beloved family tortoise lost in lockdown -“Have you seen Gary?” It makes a change from yet another love song. Loaded with hooks, the song has been described by the band as being ‘lament about a pet tortoise, escaped as a result of family chaos. The Tory party are in their own spectacular meltdown (and lord knows what will happen between me submitting this review and it going live), but it seems most apt that there is a track called ‘Conservative Hell.‘ Not that it’s about them per se but I love the line within: ‘if you think this car’s dirty you should try a night with the driver.’ (Variations on this are no doubt coming to the back of a vehicle near you soon.) If a lyric could ever sum up what a band are about then Dry Cleaning are – and I mean this as a compliment – summed up by ‘Liberty Log‘ ‘s ‘It’s a weird premise but I like it.’

Last year’s debut album New Long Leg reached no.4 in the album charts and yet again reminded us all what a consistently brilliant label 4AD have been over more than four decades. While this week’s album chart may end up being about Taylor Swift and Arctic Monkeys seeing who can build upon their (admittedly impressive) statistics, but I can’t help hoping that Dry Cleaning make their presence felt once again.

It’s a worthy successor to their debut, produced once again by John Parish, and I look forward to seeing where they’ll go with their third album. I’m not quite sure what hair that is on the front cover, mind…

…oh, and if the vicar’s coming round, I wouldn’t put this on!

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.