This is more a glance at the corner you just navigated than a proper winding back, but it’s been an action packed few years for those seeing Dry Cleaning this week (see you at the Manning Bar tonight if you’re in Sydney), those who couldn’t get their hands on a ticket and are still cursing, and the band itself. So this feels like winding back a decent way.
In any case, this 2019 EP is where my obsession with the south London four-piece began. There’s another EP, a stunning debut album and this year an absolutely cracking second album also , but for now, get your snaky, wordy, punchy art rock/post punk dose here.
DRY CLEANING – SWEET PRINCESS: REVIEW
Sweet Princess (Pod/Inertia)
TWISTING AND TURNING, JERKING BACK AND FORTH, London’s Dry Cleaning have the insistence of the demanding but the insouciance of the indifferent. They’re here to flick your switch, but they don’t really care if you then come along: your choices; your results - whatever.
On one side is snaky, thin and probing guitars which can be tendrils or razors as necessary, and a rhythm section that feels like its hurrying you even as it just locks in, or can simply loom over your shoulder like a hired goon for a minor crime lord.
This is wiry rock, lean and tensile, which pulls in American as much as British influences, from Pylon, Sleater-Kinney and The Waitresses to Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Joseph K and X-Ray Specks.
And on the other side, there’s a vocalist whose spoken-word delivery, whose attitude, is part Patti Smith and Mark E. Smith, part Jason Williamson, of Sleaford Mods, and Nina Hagan.
Droll laid over urgent, dry rolled out on top of elbows-and-knees physicality, and, when things slow down, coolly observant over pin-pupiled intensity. It’s a potent combination for Lewis Maynard, Tom Dowse, Florence Shaw and Nick Buxton.
In vocalist Shaw, who a year ago hadn’t stepped on a stage, or a rehearsal room for that matter, Dry Cleaning have a lyricist whose writing method encompasses scattered, “found” words and lines (which in the opening track, Goodnight, apparently were sourced from online comments to random posts) as well as pointed, sometimes sarcastic, but never less than frank observations, not least in the state-of-the-nation Traditional Fish.
Shaw may be a novice but she isn’t hiding. In Magic Of Meghan she links her own breakup with a media consumer’s appreciation for the tradition-busting arrival of Meghan Markle, playing on the line between irony and commitment, while Conversation is so offhand it begins to feel dangerously directed. Through Phone Scam, a bitter exchange spins out from honesty to brutality in ways both hilarious and a touch scary, while Goodnight’s collections of posts begin to feel like modern epigrams.
There’s only six songs on this EP, all over in 20 minutes, but in the spinning top whirl of New Job and Magic Of Meghan’s pulse-in-the-neck rush alone there are two of my songs of the year. And the rest aren’t far behind.