Dry Cleaning's EPs tour is a delicious reminder of what a fabulously odd, game-changing band they are

Dry Cleaning celebrate their early years with a joyous re-introduction to their first two EPs

Dry Cleaning, live in London, April 18, 2024
(Image: © Lorne Thomson/Redferns)

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It was when Dry Cleaning saw an original pressing of their first vinyl record, a 2019 compilation of their debut EP Sweet Princess (recorded in a single day in August 2018, and released via bandcamp one month later) and its 2019 follow-up Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks, in the San Francisco branch of Amoeba Records with a $400 price tag, that they decided that it might be appropriate to reissue their earliest work. National lockdowns in the UK meant that the South London quartet never had the opportunity to play some of these tracks live - by the time that indoor hospitality venues re-opened on May 17, 2021, the group's debut album New Long Leg had been in shops for a month - so their 10-date tour of the UK and Ireland this month was both a celebration of their early years, and a reminder of what first made the group so special. As such, the tour's final show, a homecoming date at the all-seated EartH Theatre in Hackney, was only ever going to be a triumph. And so it proved. 

On this run, in a nod to their status at the time when their first two EPs were brand new, Dry Cleaning deliberately chose to play venues that are smaller than those they played when touring their most recent album, 2022's Stumpwork, with minimalist lighting and absolutely nothing in terms of onstage 'production', not even a backdrop. This puts all the focus on the songs being presented in their stark, bare bones form, and with both six-track EPs being played in full, serves to remind everyone here what a gloriously odd, thrillingly out of step little band Dry Cleaning were when they first emerged.  

Unfinished when they recorded it, the brilliant Magic Of Meghan has a circling, jabbing riff, dry-as-a-bone lyrics musing upon a royal romance ("She's a smasher, perfectly suited to the role") and the occassional sporadic "whoop" from the marvellously deadpan Florence Shaw, the world's least-likely excitable whooper. Goodnight features the highly disconcerting lyric, "She said have you ever spat cum onto the carpet of a Travelodge" alongside a matter-of-fact reference to listening to songs on a Walkman on the "6:15 Thameslink from Farringdon to Leatherhead" in '91/'92, while the chorus of Phone Scam begins with the line, "She said I was a horrible cunt." No-one else sounded like this in 2018, and if, six years on, you can't listen to BBC 6Music for more than half an hour without hearing an example of Sprechgesang (literally 'spoken singing'), that's because Dry Cleaning helped create a whole new playing field for indie-rock. 

Speaking to Louder earlier this year, guitarist Tom Dowse suggested that the spartan conditions under which Dry Cleaning's earliest songs were written in bassist Lewis Maynard's family home in Sidcup shaped the group's stripped-back sound, and may provide a template for the band to return to as they begin work soon upon the follow-up to Stumpwork. Presented after all the EP tracks have been performed, with a couple of hundred fans having bolted from the tiered seating for a stage-front bop, the likes of No Decent Shoes for Rain and Don't Press Me were hardly lush ELO-style epics when committed to tape at Rockfield Studios, but here they sound more urgent, direct and forceful, boding well for what may lie ahead. Tonight is a wonderful reminder of the strides Dry Cleaning have taken over the past 5/6 years, but exactly which paths the group may meander down when next entering a recording facility are unknowable as yet, making the prospect of Dry Cleaning's 'proper' comeback later this year an enticing and wonderful prospect.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.