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Record of the Month: Dry Cleaning smash the hinges off indie with futurist debut masterpiece


I drop the needle on the lovely banana yellow LP and I already know that I am in no position to review it. I have completely lost all subjectivity. I did about an hour after one of our editors sent a message in the group WhatsApp saying this new Dry Cleaning is great. At first, I thought he was just pleased that some local establishment he was trying out hadn’t utterly chernobyled his favourite slacks. Not long later I was hit by the cold splash of water that is New Long Leg. “Yabba! Her hippo.”

As the unspooling of chaotic lyrics begin, my mind is a fevered kaleidoscopic swirl of superlatives. In the margins of my handwritten scribble is a scratched out quote that Jack Kerouac applied to Charlie Parker: “Musically as important as Beethoven but not considered as such.” Naturally, that takes things too far hence its ejection to the crossed-out margins, but the originality on display in New Long Leg is staggering, nonetheless. “I’ve been thinking about eating that hotdog for hours.”

About a minute into the record and ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’ is already flowing like the thoughts of a totally mad woman sitting on a chaise lounge in a flat watching daytime TV and looking out of the window, reporting every passing thought as the world goes by. That woman is Florence Shaw, and she propagates the depths of a literary odditorium akin to the uber-subtle subversiveness of Russian absurdists like Daniil Kharms. “She’s definitely in a league of her own.”

What ensues is an anthology of cascading consciousness, and it provides the densest collection of poetic atoms since Philip Larkin dipped his spam javelin in a tungsten fleshlight behind a library in Hull as a particularly heavy high-pressure front moved in from Europe. “Well, well, well.”

In some ways, the record forages forward into what academics might refer to as futurist art. In the same way that Marcel Duchamp spawned the Dadaist movement by capturing mindless horrors of World War One by hanging a urinal in an art gallery, operating on the logic that the only way to reflect the senselessness of society was through equally senseless art; Dry Cleaning’s barrage of near-maddening lyrics is reflective of the bombardment of information that we receive daily in this technological-info age. “Brain replaced by something.”

The album flows like a news feed, pairing every passing thought from idle observations about the new formatting of The Antiques Roadshow with almost covertly candid quips of poignancy about relationships and longing. In the process, it transfigures some of the banalest things ever uttered in a song into peculiar strokes of originality that illuminate the world in a neon introspective hue. “Would you choose a dentist with a messy back garden like that?”

All of this a driven home in a sonic maelstrom that takes beefy Stranglers basslines, jangling Television guitars, and meddling mess of other elements, to produce something that can only really be compared to the incomparable Baxter Dury. Thereafter, the sound realises it’s original enough not to have to force gimmicks or production schtick – they’re already eviscerating platitudes by laundering white delicates with colours at 40 degrees, there is really no need to throw any stratagem into the spin. Most importantly, however, is that this punky melodic sound provides the perfect canvas for the songwriting to paint upon and it lends some of the jejune observations uttered the perfect twisted brushstrokes to elevate them to an exciting new form of lyric rather than a bananas denigration of form. It sounds weird enough to be unmistakably new, but it’s familiar enough to offer a come hither finger wag. This fun fanfare is maybe even danceable if you’ve got the spasmodic upper body of David Byrne and the quick feet of a tricky South American winger. “You can’t just come into my garden in your football kit and start asking questions about who lives here.”

From start to finish the record continually plays with sound and poetry like a child who has inadvertently cracked anti-matter and is using it to power a Scalextric – you simply can’t get bored of it. You can pull apart the tracks on the record and measure what makes them tick, but what’s the point? We’ll only find ourselves marvelling at the peculiarities and revelling in the majesty all the same. “Put a shawl on that mannequin mate.”

When the dust settles on New Long Leg it might not be remembered as a fine-tuned musical Mona Lisa, but with a bit of luck, it will be akin to Patti Smith’s Horses and represent a Uma Therman-Esque shot of adrenaline to the heart of the music industry. “That silly woman’s done a too-straight fringe.”

It is a masterpiece and the best thing about it is that it has no idea how good it is. In fact, it doesn’t even seem to realise that it is an album until the grand ‘oh we haven’t even finished yet’ piece of production wizardry on the phenomenal finale. “With only the side of my nose for company.”

You can drop a stone into the muddy puddle of this album, and you won’t hear it hit the bottom. The stone probably won’t break the surface either, like a cork in an effervescing bathtub, it’d just bob about marvelling at the strange, inscrutable, but undeniably brilliant depths and multitudes swirling below. “Filter! I love these mighty oaks, don’t you?”