Dry Cleaning: Stumpwork [Album Review]

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Dry Cleaning
4AD [2022]

The Fire Note headphone approved

After the release of their 2019 EP, Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks, TFN said that we couldn’t wait to hear how South London’s Dry Cleaning was going to progress. Well, we had to wait till last year to find out but Dry Cleaning’s debut LP, New Long Leg, was a post-punk master class that was driven by the modern spoken word poetry of lead singer Florence Shaw. At the time, I was thinking that this was going to be Dry Cleaning’s pinnacle moment and that the lightning would be very hard to catch again. Well, I was wrong as the band has quickly returned today with the release of Stumpwork and it may be the groups best effort to date without changing much of the approach but now sounding even more confident in the execution.

This first 10 seconds of this record absolutely sets the tone of the journey you are about to begin. Within this short time frame, you get an opening clickity clack percussion and bass riff in “Anna Calls From The Arctic,” followed by Shaw bluntly asking, “Should I promise friendship?” in her unphased tone. The song continues with its jazzy coolness for almost 5 minutes and leaves you wanting more. The good news is – there is more to come. The writing for Stumpwork began before New Long Leg was even released with the intent to spend twice as much time on this follow up with producer John Parish. This dedication to their art has paid huge dividends as the background instrumentation on Stumpwork is mesmerizing. The guitar runs are like a good thriller as they dip behind corners and pop up out of closets which always lead to a surprise. Shaw is your constant leader so you easily get hyper focused on her delivery when out of nowhere a song will take another turn. This happens time and time again on Stumpwork. The funk undertone on “Hot Penny Day,” the indie rock driving the under 2-minute “Don’t Press Me” or even when Shaw sings a few lines during the foot tapper “Gary Ashby,” Stumpwork gives so many new looks to a band that you maybe thought didn’t have any more avenues to travel.

The sophomore slump is a real thing for so many artists but clearly Dry Cleaning avoids the speed bump. In fact, Stumpwork is their best work to date as the group pushes their post-punk to another level as the album is engaging for its entire 46-minute runtime. If you were not onboard the Dry Cleaning hype after last year’s New Long Leg, Stumpwork leaves no option for you not to join the fan club today!

“Anna Calls From The Arctic” / “Gary Ashby” / “Don’t Press Me”

Yard Act / My Bloody Valentine / Sonic Youth

New Long Leg (2021)

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Thomas Wilde

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