Dry Cleaning @ Hare & Hounds review: joy meets surrealism

Jack McGill went to Dry Cleaning's gig in Birmingham. Here's what he thought...

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 17th Apr 2024

The fact it was early in the work week didn’t stop the BBC 6 Music dads of Birmingham from striding into the Hare & Hounds for the past two sold-out nights for a chance to be graced by Dry Cleaning’s sound. Touring through North America and Europe, the quartet have had the chance to celebrate the reissue of their two early EPs with a cheeky mix of album tracks thrown into the set for good measure. 

Drawing out the eccentric in the usual and mundane, they qualify as one of the most spellbinding post-punk outfits seen in recent years, generating an air of effortless cool around them, whether it be on stage or on record. Unfortunately, days before their dates at Hare & Hounds Man/Woman/Chainsaw had to pull out due to injury, but in the nick of time Sofftness — who previously supported on the tour at Leed’s lauded Brudenell — stepped in to perform a frenetic set of post-punk filled with intense delivery, highs of panicked excitement and lows of political disavowal. 

A Dry Cleaning show is interesting because it doesn't exactly sound stellar and isn't crystal clear in your ears. But in that dissonance between what sounds conventionally “good” and what you know of them on record, Dry Cleaning flourish in their truest form, weird and fuzzy on the edges, with a chewy post-punk middle that you won’t find anywhere else. They make the difficult feat of making boring exciting look very easy. 

On stage, Dry Cleaning seem to contrast each other, Lewis Maynard moves and plays bass for ‘Viking Hair’ like it’s a rock show whilst Florence Shaw delivers her composed vocals amongst the colliding sounds. In fact, for the majority of their set, Shaw is like porcelain, rarely breaking out of the meditative state she seems to perform in. The only time her statuesque figure cracks is when she breaks out a tambourine for ‘Conversation’ and when she can’t hide the glee she feels inside when performing the parasocial jewel of the two EPs ‘Magic of Meghan’ to which Hare & Hounds give an obligatory and resounding applause. 

Droning, monotonous vocals of ‘Dog Proposal’ and ‘Jam After School’ not only set the tone for the majority of the set but cast a hypnotic veil of immersion on the crowd. They were so tight and well-rehearsed, that it gave a taste of what post-punk and new wave were in the eighties but removed all of its impurities. Not only is it a reminder that the South London outfit is a level above the rest, but that most other groups can’t offer this type of artistic mastery when it comes to bringing the music they create to life. 

There are signs of life, not just a cerebral or robotic performance, the material from their two albums ‘New Long Leg’ and ‘Stumpwork’ breathes a freshness into the set, where joy meets surrealism, like ‘Gary Ashby’, a silly song about nothing particularly important, much like Dry Cleaning’s ethos. They filter out the fluff of post-punk with a blend of new and old material. 

Jack McGill



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Header image credit: Hare & Hounds / Instagram.com