Dry Cleaning’s 2021 debut album ‘New Long Leg’ saw the south London band come into their own as the bold, brilliant black sheep of the post-punk scene. While the likes of Fontaines D.C., Yard Act and IDLES all write the kind of high-energy, angular anthems to create carnage amongst the audience, Dry Cleaning are more deliberate in their attack. Instead of barked lyrics and catchy slogans, Florence Shaw half-whispers everyday observations, surrealist imagery and hard-earned life advice over slabs of expansive, urgent guitar-driven noise. It’s sprechgesang, but not as we know it.
Tonight, the four-piece take to the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the Grace Jones-curated Meltdown Festival. Sure, other bands from their scene might be scared of the imposing, all-seated room – but Dry Cleaning take it in their stride. “This is an unusual venue for us,” grins Shaw, making herself right at home onstage.
Opening track ‘Leafy’ has been beefed up, with the band doused in shadow and strobes to give the normally-swaying track a hard, industrial edge. The squealing guitar of ‘Unsmart Lady’ quickly follows, giddy, playful but collected while the folksy twang of ‘Her Hippo’ is warm and rich. On record, Shaw’s vocals are kept at a polite distance from the raucous wall of noise the rest of the band create but tonight, everyone comfortably gives it their all. Bassist Lewis Maynard plays like he’s auditioning for Metallica while guitarist Tom Dowse is having such a great time he literally skips about the stage.
Shaw never has to shout over the noise, her tumbling vocals powerful enough to cut through the scuzzy breakdowns, but she does play the tambourine so hard that tiny cymbals end up scattered about the stage. Backed by an impressive, ever-shifting light show, Dry Cleaning have grown into a ferocious live force and don’t need to rely onmosh pits or call-and-response lyrics to enthral. Here is a band who unafraid to try something new or different.
And that ambition shows no signs of slowing down, either. New song ‘Don’t Press Me’, taken from upcoming second album ‘Stumpwork’ (“you can look that up later” invites Shaw), is a jangly anthem that pulls from The Cure, Joy Division and Iggy Pop but this band – of course – twist it into something fresh and colourful. It’s a promising two-minute glimpse into the future that sees Dry Cleaning refuse to follow the expected path.
Dry Cleaning played:
‘Don’t Press Me’
‘Sit Down Meal’
‘More Big Birds’
‘New Long Leg’
‘Magic Of Meghan’