Photo: Daniel Kirby

Dry Cleaning – Shipping Forecast, Liverpool, UK (21st February 2020)

The excitement surrounding the London quartet Dry Cleaning has been steadily building since they put out two EP’s in quick succession last year. Their excellent debut Sweet Princess arrived last summer, with its equally great follow-up Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks arriving two months later.

It wasn’t Dry Cleaning’s first performance on Merseyside, having made their debut on the other side of river in the Bloom Building at the inaugural Future Yard festival last August. However, it was the first appearance in the city by support band Pozi, the London trio invited to join Dry Cleaning on their UK tour.

Knowing virtually nothing about Pozi before seeing them perform, most of the audience were more than likely in the same boat. Combining a violin with bass and drums, and all three taking up vocal duties, the crowd seemed a little apprehensive at first as they adjusted to their somewhat unusual style.

As their set progressed, the crowd grew more comfortable and came to love the brilliantly jarring violin work in particular. The performance came to an end almost too soon for many, with one bloke bringing himself forward to dance before leading a chant of ‘one more song’. A very impressing showing.

Guitarist Tom Dowse, bassist Lewis Maynard and drummer Nick Buxton were all friends prior to forming Dry Cleaning, playing in various projects before coming together to do something more raw and stripped back. Squeezing themselves into Maynard’s mother’s garage, they quickly recorded some demos.

Dowse showed visual artist and university lecturer Florence Shaw what they had been working on, having known her from their time at Royal College of Art. With no experience on vocals, Shaw decided to give it a go anyway. Although gradually coming to terms with being up on stage, it may turn out to be the best decision she ever made (certainly for us music fans).

Honing their sound in a confined space, Dry Cleaning sound as tight and as jagged as you’d expect them to. Blending elements of art and post-punk with hints of new wave and much more, the sardonic lyrics and deadpan delivery of Shaw are the perfect accompaniment to the noise the other three produce together.

Performing a large chunk of their recorded material, Dry Cleaning kicked off their set with a couple from their second EP. ‘Spoils’ being the heavier of the two, with Shaw commenting on streaming and video games. While ‘Dog Proposal’ is a more jangly offering, featuring witty observations about the myth that hard work brings success and the endless production of vast arrays of football club merchandise.

Debut EP opener ‘Goodnight’ is even better live than on record, with its fast pace and lyrics assembled from the comments section of Aphex Twin videos on YouTube. “She said: have you ever spat cum onto the carpet of a Travelodge?” still catches you off guard, even after hearing that line multiple times.

Tracks from their first EP have a slightly heavier feel to them overall, giving ‘New Job’ and ‘Phone Scam’ a run out next. And after testing out what sounded like some new material (possibly titled ‘Jam Jar’?) during the middle of their set, they shifted back to their second EP with ‘Viking Hair’ and ‘Sit Down Meal’.

A track seemingly about a bad date, the mystery behind the meaning and inspiration behind a lot of Shaw’s lyrics is what makes her vocals so intriguing. This enigmatic quality also fits in well with their limited social media presence, which despite having various accounts they rarely post anything on them.

Their final run of tracks all came from their first EP, with the slow and warped ‘Traditional Fish’ followed by their only single to date: ‘Magic of Meghan’. One of the best singles of last year, it’s difficult to tell if she really believes that the Duchess was “just what England needs” or if she things it’s all a load of bollocks. Either way, it’s utterly superb.