In just over three years, Dry Cleaning have gone from little known post-punk outfit to one of the UK’s most talked-about groups today. Their November 2020 single, “Scratchcard Lanyard”, catapulted the London-based quartet to indie stardom, and their subsequent signing with the influential 4AD had them on an upward trajectory. However, it takes more than a single and a label to propel a band into the spotlight. 

To say Florence Shaw (vocals), Nicholas Hugh Andrew Buxton (drums), Thomas Paul Dowse (guitar), and Lewis Maynard (bass) are talented would be an understatement. They are among the best best bands on the planet. Their debut album, New Long Leg, for instance, was wry, clever, yet extremely relevant in its lyrical content while bursting with ripping riffs and rhythmic propulsion. Unsurprisingly, it was one of our 50 Favorite Albums of 2021. Their sophomore LP, Stumpwork, was more personal, but it still possessed Shaw’s sharp lyricism and the jarring instrumentation of Buxton, Dowse, and Maynard. It, too, will likely end up on this year’s Favorite Albums list. 

It is one thing to listen to the albums and come away a fan. It’s another thing to watch a band perform live, where one gets to truly appreciate their artistry and talent. The foursome delivered an incredible show last Wednesday night (December 7th) at San Fran in Wellington. What the audience witnessed was Buxton, Dowse, and Maynard making an emphatic statement as being one of the very bests at their craft, where their instruments are delivered forcibly. On “Gary Ashby”, for instance, they turn the original’s boppy, off-kilter approach into an electric dance party. “Her Hippo”, “Don’t Press Me”, and “Magic of Meghan”, meanwhile, were transformed into fiery, heavy post-punk numbers that had the patrons thrashing their heads in every direction.

In the middle of the sonic fireworks stands Shaw, who, too, is one of the finest songwriters today. Looking almost ghostly in her white dress, she delivered her sharp, insightful, and amusing lines in her usual deadpan manner. When she started the lyrics to “Scratchard Lanyard”, a sing-along took place. She also delighted the crowd by referring to “No Decent Shoes for Rain” as “the New Zealand song”, to which the audience also sang along.  If there is one quibble from us, it would be that the band did not play “Every Day Carry”, which would have been a terrific closer that accentuated all four members’ talents. Maybe next time! 

Follow Dry Cleaning at: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter. Get Stumpwork at these links and on Bandcamp.

Photos by Stella Gardiner. Words by Ben Yung.

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