Dry Cleaning – Stumpwork

The band stretch into more experimental musicality and broaden the scope of their tones.

Label: 4AD
Released: 21st October 2022


Undisputed chief oddballs of the alternative and spoken word scene, London’s own Dry Cleaning come equipped with bizarre imagery and fragmented conversations in their second release, ‘Stumpwork’. Packed with the same strangely comforting weirdness and entrancing rhythms of their first album, this record sees the band stretch into more experimental musicality and broaden the scope of their tones.

With subject matter ranging from family tortoises with full names, trips to see something called water caterpillars and being overly protective toward a gaming mouse, every track on this record plays like a smattering of anecdotes that mingle and blend into one another. Lead vocalist Florence Shaw effortlessly captures the mundanity of small talk, imbuing the album with an alien familiarity. With every track following a series of disjointed threads, there’s a hectic surrealism in finding the point of discussion, although food finds its way into most lyrics. “I’m not the total package / Costa Costa cups / There’s crumbs / And there’s jam / In the bed”, she states wistfully on ‘Driver Story’. Lyrically, the album plays like watching an artist paint ten pictures at once, slowly revealing that the subjects are far more familiar and relatable than first expected.

Rhythmically, the band have found new lengths to subvert expectations, with a driving force behind every song that provides a steady stage for guitar fills and spoken word highlights. The riffing of guitarist Tom Dowse is now amplified by the further addition of more pedalling and distortion of the sound. ‘Hot Penny Day’ sees saxophone accompaniment that calls on a sense of impending societal collapse and pairs well with bassist Lewis Maynard’s iconic noodling.

‘Stumpwork’ acts perfectly as a snapshot of continuing Dry Cleaning’s depth and complexity.

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