umbrellafried chips, a Twix, a hot dog, sausage, mayonnaise, nuts, seeds, berries, sushi, pastries, chocolate mousse, pizza, chocolate chip cookies, bread the cream, a Müller Corner yogurt. The lyrics to Dry Cleaning’s debut album are full of food but – a few expensive mushrooms, a mixed salad and a separate banging pasta bake – it’s mostly the kind you choose absent-mindedly between meals, which doesn’t satisfy you. really.
That horrible false satisfaction – of eating for something to do; to be full and yet not – that’s what this album approaches in such a simple and original way. Idle consumption seems to symbolize a wider malaise, a culture given to apathy and melee. Dry Cleaning expresses the banality of contemporary life and the sense of helplessness it can induce, in a voice more clearly articulated than any band I can think of.
There are certainly many other British artists who talk enthusiastically about everyday life. Sleaford’s mods tend to focus on the bland details that take on gigantic and horrific meaning, but their contempt for it all is much more evident; Black Country, New Road have a quartet tendency to non-sequences and weird stories, but they are much more romantic. Instead, the flow of consciousness of dry cleaning leader Florence Shaw is endlessly stemmed and diverted until it loses all sense of where it was headed. There is a nihilism in this album, the feeling that even brief moments of meaning have very little meaning.
Shaw scrolls through his own life, never being able to land on anything for more than a moment: “Your hairstyle changed for charity / Can you imagine the rent?” At first listen, she sounds bored and monotonous, but is actually still at least interested in what she’s commenting on, and her voice has a sinuous musicality that makes it difficult to read her feelings. You can build an entire narrative from the relieved and aggrieved way she says, “It was letting go when I got out / It’s not now.” “
Leafy, a sort of ballad, has the most obvious emotional content – a beautiful, hopelessly gruesome portrayal of depression. But the album is often airy and funny, full of little sitcoms. The frame of the eye-catching Lanyard single Scratchcard suddenly pivots towards a church hall or community center: “I came here to make a ceramic shoe / And I came to break what you made / I came to mingle / I came to learn to dance, ”Shaw says, using the earthiness, violence and levity that bothers me to mask a need for human connection that clearly bothers her, but not enough to ignore it – all on four short lines.
His performance is so special that it demands unpretentious music. With more picky or less rhythmic accompaniments, Shaw could perhaps seem sufficient, his humor could be neglected. The guitar-bass-drums trio have it firmly anchored, attaching to a sort of stoner-garage rock, although their accompaniments are actually quite varied: the riffs of Unsmart Lady are beefy and rock, but More Big Birds has the melodic bass and liberal arts funk of Spoon or the Sea and Cake, and guitarist Tom Dowse recalls Johnny Marr on the title track.
With her fixed, awe-inspiring face flanked by walls of hair, almost isolating her from her group, Shaw is also surprising to watch on stage, as she captures the inner monologue of a generation like never before: those bitchy, distracted thoughts. and totally oblivious that a consciousness poisoned by city life and digital media is powerless to stop.
Still, there is a deep poetry in the way his observations articulate, a reminder that anything can be built from the stupid wrecks of ordinary life. Maybe it’s like the Holbein painting she refers to on Strong Feelings, which you have to look at at an angle to see a hidden human skull. Sometimes you have to look at life from the side to try to make sense of it.