UK post-punk band Dry Cleaning aren't letting media acclaim muddy their attention

HYPED: London's Dry Cleaning are, from left, Nick Buxton (drums), Florence Shaw (vocals), Tom Dowse (guitar) and Lewis Maynard (bass).

HYPED: London's Dry Cleaning are, from left, Nick Buxton (drums), Florence Shaw (vocals), Tom Dowse (guitar) and Lewis Maynard (bass).

TASMANIAN tiger sightings feel more common these days than the likes of esteemed US music website Pitchfork gushing praise for an English rock band.

Yet that happened earlier this month when Pitchfork published an 8.6/10 review for New Long Leg, the debut album from London post-punk band Dry Cleaning. It came complete with a "best new music" tag, no less.

However, Pitchfork aren't alone. The music press on either side of the Atlantic have been captivated by Dry Cleaning's fresh take on tense and angular post-punk - in the vein of Joy Division and Public Image Ltd - mixed with frontwoman Florence Shaw's spoken word delivery about the banalities of life.

NME gave the album four stars, while The Guardian stamped its unwavering approval with a five-star review. A debut entry at No.4 on the UK album chart was further proof Dry Cleaning's appeal extends beyond the fourth estate.

"It's a really crazy thing the way it's gone down," Dry Cleaning drummer Nick Buxton says from London over Zoom.

"It's really easy to brush it off and not let it go to your head, which is important, but it's good to savour these moments at the same time as it may not happen again."

Dry Cleaning's four members are circumspect about New Long Leg's success due to the winding road they've travelled to this moment.

Each are in their 30s and long-term friends. Buxton, guitarist Tom Dowse and bassist Lewis Maynard have worked together and apart in a variety of musical projects, with minimal success, while Shaw is a visual artist and was a university lecturer until recently.

In 2018 Buxton, Dowse and Maynard were searching for a vocalist and eventually convinced a hesitant Shaw to audition. Unable to sing and without any musical experience, Shaw began to read snippets of poetry over the music that she'd compiled from random thoughts, overheard conversations and YouTube comments.

Something clicked. The dynamic and constantly shifting music meshed beautifully with Shaw's steady delivery, which oozes equal amounts of humour and melancholy.

Soon after they released their first single Magic Of Meghan written about Shaw's admiration for Meghan Markle at the time of her marriage to Prince Harry.

It was followed by the EPs Sweet Princess and Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks, both in 2019. Since then the hype has only continued to build for Dry Cleaning, in spite of the pandemic.

"It also helps you to contextualise it a bit," Dowse says of Dry Cleaning's late success.

"I don't think we'll be the kind of people who hang on every word of the press. It's favourable now, it may not always be. But I think we'll keep ourselves centred on what really matters and that's the four of us and our relationship and keep it nice and enjoy making the music.

"We're already writing again and that's the main thing. We're not sitting around soaking in the reflective glow of our glory, it's just back to work."

New Long Leg was recorded over two weeks by PJ Harvey producer John Parish during the UK's summer of COVID at the famed Welsh studio Rockfield, where Oasis' (What's The Story) Morning Glory was made.

It marks a dramatic upgrade in quality and execution from their EPs. The guitar and basslines are more melodic and Shaw has added greater rhythmic phrasing into her vocals like a modern John Cooper Clarke.

Dry Cleaning - Scratchcard Lanyard

Dowse says creating space is essential to Dry Cleaning's sound.

"There's always that emphasis on push and pull," he says. "When to build something up, when to break it down again and when to hold off and when to go for it. That's the real challenge.

"You see the same thing in hip hop. Really good hip hop production doesn't overdo it. It doesn't crowd the MC, but at the same time the MC knows when to hold off and let the beat do the talking."

Despite the lack of live gigs, it's been an exciting past year for British rock music. Idles, Shame and Ireland's Fontaines D.C have released quality albums and suddenly guitar music is back in vogue in the Old Dart.

I think it's taken guitar music time to respond to grime.

Tom Dowse - Dry Cleaning guitarist

"There's always been bands coming up and doing stuff, it's just not been the same amount of exposure and emphasis in the last 20-odd years," Dowse says.

"We had a big explosion in the post-punk revival in the early 2000s and unfortunately not a lot of good bands came from that and lasted very long.

"As a reaction to that, people moved away from it or the attention moved away from it. Probably deservedly so. Particularly in the UK over the past 10 years, grime has been given much more attention which it totally deserved.

"It's much more relevant. I think it's taken guitar music time to respond to grime. To take the different influences and become relevant again."

Dry Cleaning's album New Long Leg is out now.

This story Dry Cleaning standing tall after debut's hyped leg up first appeared on Newcastle Herald.