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 – 111. Kim Gordon

Kim GordonWater? Charger? Music?

There’s a new album from Kim Gordon, her first solo album apparently, although I cannot deny it does not feel like this is her first solo album such is her pervasive influence and presence during the pivotal decades of my life, such is her creativity and the way she has pushed at boundaries, crossing from art to punk to avant-garde to feminism and back again, and back again, the woman who made Sonic Youth punk, the woman who inspired a generation of other women and men to not necessarily automatically be assholes. And back again. Yes, she always was my favourite, much as I am fond of Lee Ranaldo’s way around an artfully constructed melody and long hair blowing in the festival breeze.

Story on return and first solo album here, if anyone wants to take notes.

This song featured today could be called dance, dubstep, whatever. And it’s over before it’s begun. It is as challenging and invigorating and inspirational and odd as I have come to expect from Kim Gordon, although perhaps even more so, if you catch my drift – perhaps because it’s heard after a decade of separation, perhaps not – I mean what? If you’re looking for classic Kim Gordon than perhaps you could go to another track on the album – this one, ‘Air BnB’ – and this is fine, and makes me want to hear the whole album, but because it is what I was expecting more or less, and makes me think of standing on a chilly winter’s day outside Max Fish NYC 1992, fails to connect with me as well as the one that does connect, to wit:

But, wait. ‘Air BnB’ one is great, but expected. That is what I am trying to say. I mean, never expect shit from no one and all that, but I already am convinced of Kim Gordon’s greatness and refusal to be anyone but herself, so I do not need a reminder, you feel me? Even though, coming from someone else, it would probably be song of the fucken year or summat. Fuck it.

Confused yet? Good. Confusion is sex.

Goddamn. Let’s have a little Daniel Johnston to clear our palettes and then listen again:

Clear? In we go once more…

If this was from Radiohead, you’d all be wetting yourselves it’s so fucken good. Dissonant. Danceable. Delirious. More fucked-up poetry from the queen of fucked-up poetry.

If this was a piece by Laurie Anderson it would be being exhibited in the Whitney right now.



How NOT to write about music – 77. Fontaines DC

fontaine sdc

I feel like I am stepping into a time warp.

It ain’t that it don’t feel real. (It do.) It ain’t that the guitars don’t blister and scour and bleed annoyance and aggravation everywhere they turn. (They do.) It ain’t that this Dublin group ain’t intelligent and sassy: Sleaford Mods smart. (They is.) It’s ain’t that their songs boast a heavy narrative rarely seen outside grime and hip-hop, and that their music boasts a heavy swagger and cleansing grace rarely heard outside the music of Sonic Youth and another group who aren’t Sonic Youth. (They do.) It certainly ain’t that these lads don’t take a heavy pride in their heritage coupled with equal disgust and distrust. It ain’t that (intriguingly) this group have the potential to turn into something horrendous by the time they come to release their third album (let those radio programmers and Spotify drones get their hands on this beauty).

It ain’t any of that.

It’s just that every time I hear their blistering, scouring, smart, sassy, literate-as-your-fucking-mum, cleansing, invigorating, swaggering, challenging, some velvet sidewalkin’, agitated, aggressive, atonal, tightly wound, raging snarl of a beat and a bass drum I want to fucking EXPLODE, burst into paroxysms of no-longer pent-up frustration and bounce in the faces of the grey and mundane walking by, carol it from the balustrades and barricades, throw away cynicism and preconceptions, dance like Jonathan Richman, mow down any lingering opposition and smash through the remains. I’m reminded of the seething Australian underbelly.

Some fucking time warp. I’m guessing your school days are long over.

As someone way more literate than me once spat, “Repetition in the music/And we’re never going to lose it”.

This performance is riveting, once you’ve finished listening to ‘Too Real’ for the 10th time.

How NOT to write about music – 67. The Membranes


This feels important.

No reason, but this feels important. Doubtless my 23-year-old self would disagree with me – he always was a cantankerous bastard – but I feel that out of seemingly nowhere The Membranes have made the greatest album of their career. (Let’s not call it a career, eh?) Of their lives. I would go over the recent review I wrote about it for Classic Rock, and dwell on each and every word, but. Do not take my word for it. This is high praise, from me, from my former self certainly. I had a couple of main noise bands in the 1980s – UT, The Birthday Party, Membranes, Sonic Youth – and one of them has returned after a near three-decade gap and made the greatest album of their lives. (It’s their second in recent years, and the other was almost equally as fine.) Playing out of their skins. Literally. So good, all I can do is gape at the hollowness inside my hollow inside and wonder why some of my friends are so great at growing old while others (well, me) are so crap. Pain, humiliation, death – this is all that life promises me as I edge closer towards 60. Not for John Robb and his merry bunch of swaggering, dissolute reprobates though.

What nature gives… nature takes away.

They embrace the mantra and do not swerve from it, but face up to it and create thundering beauty out of the Void, seething wonderment out of chaotic despair. There is kindness here at the heart of the violence and mesmerising noise, a beauty that only the human voice can provide (the 20-piece BIMM Manchester Choir provides texture and an iridescent counterpart to Robb’s thundering bass). The Membranes should have been massive in the 1980s, with their bone-rattling teeth-shaking finger-breaking excursions to the other side: aligned with My Bloody Valentine and Big Black, and rightly so. (In truth, they were always the greatest on stage.) It would be irony heaped upon irony now if they achieved that deserved success now, the Last Survivors Standing.


What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away is a brooding Gothic masterpiece – and yes it’s dark disco, death and romantic, apocalyptic (but not in a fucking superhero way), discordant, sweeping and epic and brimming over with feedback and emotion and turbulence, melancholia and wonder. The sheer volume of noise threatens to destroy melody but never does. The sheer magnificence of the BIMM Choir threatens to destroy rock but instead amplifies it, charges it.

In places, overcome with emotion.

Shut it down. Shut it down. Please, shut it down.

You can order a copy now from Cherry Red, but hell. Don’t take my word for it. What the fuck do I know?

As I wrote four years ago:

You see, some of us still remember the secret history of the 1980s.

Not me. Most of it is blinding white light followed by blinding white light followed explosions of noise followed by the sound of puke splattering onto the pavement from the side of a taxi followed by useless imagination followed by a stage door left open followed by the sound of a big heavy metal typewriter hitting rows of LP albums followed by neon lights glinting miserably in the rain followed by a minute of detail followed by the sound of heads hitting cold Aberdeen floors followed by crazy… nothing. I have no memory.