Dry Cleaning at The Roundhouse review by Ryan Beardsley
The Roundhouse is calling and its a trans-atlantic double header for the coolest people in Camden. First up is Chicago three piece Dehd, a new experience for your friend and humble narrator.
My first impressions are that someone has scooped up a random member from 3 different acts and thrown them all together in the same band. A guitarist from a grunge outfit, the singer from an emo throwback and the drummer from an RnB collective which makes for an interesting on stage chemistry.
In a set featuring tracks from their most recent record, 2022’s Blue Skies, Dehd win over the Dry Cleaning post punk, arty crowd, thanks in large part to the infectious energy of guitarist Jason Balla and the sit up and take notice vocals of front woman Emily Kempf.
The tunes are a mish mash of styles and influences, some shoegaze, surf rock, dream pop and the aforementioned emo sensibilities thrown in for good measure, but the setlist is full of catchy tracks, perfectly illustrated by Eggshells, Flood and Nobody to name a few.
But there’s no doubt who the crowd are here to see, London’s own, all conquering post punk heroes Dry Cleaning, six months on from the release of their critically acclaimed difficult second album Stumpwork.
They kick off with new album tracks Kwenchy Kups, followed by cult favourite Gary Ashby, to my knowledge the only punk track about a missing tortoise. Prior to the performance, hilarity ensues as it becomes apparent there is a real life Gary Ashby in the audience who has managed to get a guest list pass on account of his fortunate/unfortunate moniker, good clean fun.
Hot Penny Day, recently performed on The Jimmy Fallon Show (how exciting), gets a big reaction from all the ‘disco pickles’ in the Roundhouse and it’s on this track more than any other where the skills of guitarist Tom Dowse are put under the spotlight.
On this note, you could be forgiven for wondering just how it all works live with the old spoken word lyrics, but even as a fan and seeing them live for the first time, I was really surprised at how rowdy the audience were, I guess it’s less surprising when you acknowledge just how damn good the band is musically.
A lot of this new post punk wave we’re riding has been dismissed simply as talking over music, where the lyrics and lead singer are the main event with everything else an afterthought. Not the case with Dry Cleaning, Dowse on guitars, Lewis Maynard on bass and drummer Nick Buxton form a water tight outfit, with melodys and riffs reminiscent of Joy Division and The Smiths, high praise indeed.
But it would be churlish to not focus on Florence Shaw just a little. Her hypnotic delivery and easy going presence brings to mind a teacher reading a story, as the audience sit on the carpet with their legs crossed waiting for home time, but in a nice way. Is it just me or does she remind you of Abigail Beglin in Little Miss Sunshine?
Things do lose a touch of momentum towards the back end of the show, but it’s turned around with a vengeance for an encore of Scratchcard Lanyard, probably the most well known single and one of the only tracks that are legible for an audience sing along, as Shaw flicks through the different Instagram filters in the chorus. Then they round off with Stumpwork opener Anna Calls From The Arctic and a huge ovation from a home town crowd.
I wonder what the future holds for Dry Cleaning, I’m a huge fan of both of their records so far, and Stumpwork does see a lot of growth with Shaw stretching her vocals into singing of sorts, maybe some more of that? The festival circuit awaits this summer and they’re playing some big stages to some big crowds and I’m not sure how it will translate, but hopefully I’ll be there.