Sixty for 60: 4. Dry Cleaning

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my Facebook friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am now 10 years older than Joe Strummer when he died. Enough folk came forward for this to make a decent blog series (assuming that my writing is still up to the task).

Today, we have a suggestion from James Kavoussi – ‘Unsmart Lady’ by Dry Cleaning, or “Nico fronting Slint,” as one YouTube commentator has it. Available on 4AD, which still serves as a mark of quality. They’ve got all their merch and yellow vinyl sorted out, which is nice to see. It’d be even nicer to imagine that Dry Cleaning could make a living from this radical charisma, these mohair pink cardigans and love for the dissonance and abrasion of early 90s period Sonic Youth (specifically Kim Gordon songs), but we all need a dream, right? Spoken, not sung – like that horse caught on a barbed wire fence as the train speeds by, and we have to look away. Murky. Spitting cum on a Travelodge carpet.

Still what do I know? The most recent comment left on this blog states, “Jesus wept. What a steaming pile of self-regarding, loquacious excrement your writing is.” Great choice of words.

I wanna throw in the name cult TikTok band Life Without Buildings here, as not too many other places seem to have done. Pitckfork reckons their one studio album, 2001’s Any Other City, is worth 8.7 stars which is just 0.1 stars above what they reckon Dry Cleaning’s 2021’s debut New Long Leg to be worth. Coincidence? I think not. I throw in the comparison cos I’m just free associating here, trying to capture a sense of the surreal. Nice guitar, too.

And, despite their assertions to the contrary, they sound nothing like Lung Leg. Ha. Leave it to musicians to draw their own comparisons?! I think not. (Although, in fairness, I guess both bands may have drawn inspiration from the cover star to Sonic Youth’s EVOL.)

From South London. I have lifted one of my old mate Steve Gullick‘s photos to illustrate this piece. I hope he does not mind, and of course will remove it if he does.

How NOT to write about music – 6. Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice 1

Thank god organisations like the Hyundai Mercury Prize committee exist. (Now, why would you think I am being sarcastic?)

Without them, I may have never heard this wonderful slice of dimly-lit backstreet romance.

And that’s it. A tip of the ET fedora to the Hyundai judges for bringing this to my attention.

Also, I would far rather impassioned indie rockers winning a meaningless industry accolade than the retro-classicism of Nadine Shah any day.

Wolf Alice remind me of two favourites from the early 2000s – Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia and Life Without Buildings. With some Northern Gothic leanings and bog-standard indie guitars thrown in, obv.

On the other hand Nadine Shah’s band play bad, deliberately. Now, I’m not the sort to be put off by conventional notions of ‘bad’ – you can trust me on this. But a band playing deliberately bad, with all the attendant assumptions they are making by doing so? That annoys me, almost more than the fact her music has clearly been designed by consensus. What do indie bands do these days, sit down with their producer and show them their pantheon of a dozen post-punk albums from 1978 and 1979 and say “that’s precisely how we want our new record to sound?” Now, why the FUCK would they do that?

While I am here, why is the “consensus” among my critical peers that Nadine Shah should have won. Yes, we know critics (and Hyundai judges) love PJ Harvey but they don’t need to vote for her every year, especially if she hasn’t released an album. Should have, because this is the music they are familiar with and feel comfortable around? Nah.There is no should have to it. Thank you, Chris.

wolf alice

I do however feel that Simon may have a point as well. Always be suspicious of any band that opens for Foo Fighters.

Plus ça change.

Note to aspiring blog writers: do not criticise. Never criticise.

Link: an interesting insider account on the Mercury Prize 2018 from former judge and new BIMM London Music Journalism tutor Elisa Bray.