Dry Cleaning @ Southbank Centre, London, UK, June 13, 2022 | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, July 5th, 2022  

Dry Cleaning

Dry Cleaning

Dry Cleaning @ Southbank Centre, London, UK, June 13, 2022,

Jun 21, 2022 Photography by Burak Cingi Web Exclusive
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With the auditorium in the Southbank Centre only a quarter full, those of us that had deemed the support worthy of checking out where confronted by the excellently named and distinctly odd-ball Mermaid Chunky.

The duo sent forth a technicolour fever-dream from hilariously twisted minds. Created from synths, drum machines, loop pedals, vocals and a saxophone they crafted indefinable songs packed with everything from house beats and free-jazz sax to spoken-word poetry and pop melodies in real-time. The world needs more of their post-modern weirdness.

Adorned in neon costumes and performing under surrealist video projections, the whole thing felt like an awkward in-joke, one that if you got it you’d be better off. Or not! Is it all construed or are they this weird? That conundrum is all part of the charm.

Their stage presence played with the audience gaze, confounding many notions of what performance should be. The in-between-song “banter” was all deadpan deliveries and in-joke chats, “This song is a classic love ballad about IT, about software…except it’s not at all,” they started one number with a smirk. And for another, “This song is about Dolly Parton, who is our cousin.”

Joined on stage by neon creatures dancing as both a joyous embracing and aggressive challenge of the audience, with songs that delved into house, pop, jazz and the avant-garde, all the time strangely danceable but just ever-so off putting, Mermaid Chunky were quite the experience. Weird and unique, they might not be easily defined but if you like anything out of the norm, they are magnificent.

In explaining why they were on stage, using the words “Grace Jones”, vocalist Florence Shaw’s voice quivered with a sense of disbelief and pride. The fact that the legend had invited Dry Cleaning to play her Meltdown festival is testament to the impact they have had, and their style that has become an increasing trope in indie-rock since they emerged - detached spoken-word from a female singer over rhythmic post punk and squirls of guitar noise.

Dry Cleaning
Dry Cleaning

Over the next hour and a quarter, the four-piece showed exactly why they have connected with so many and how they are justifiably influencing the direction of travel. An ultimately strange band breaking it big, their realist, spoken word vocal style has become the big thing before they have even stepped out of the shadow of their debut album.

The Southbank Centre, a home-town gig with family members present, felt like a special event, not least for the pristine sound and immaculate, atmospheric light show. Even with the heavier take on the tracks adding a much crunchier guitar sound, Shaw’s vocals were not just audible but crisp throughout the majority of the set, a fact that allowed the quality of the songs to shine.

As the band settled in they delivered with the kind of abandon that only comes from confidence in yourself and the material, in particular Tom Dowse’s flailing arms and attacking of his guitar as if he was attempting to beat more out of it, drove a feeling of elevation that was felt in front of the stage.

“Unsmart Lady” felt huge, every instrument feeling like a punch and Shaw’s voice the remedy to the bruising. Before a encore of “Conversation”, a drawn out distorted take on “Scratchcard Lanyard” was intense and should have stayed as the last song of the night.

Dry Cleaning
Dry Cleaning

But as grand as the set was, with only one album to their name, the hour and quarter show time was definitely a stretch, with some of the mid-section feeling a bit like running-time filler than essential tracks, but this is a minor issue for a band delivering in the region of 50 minutes of vital music. With new album Stumpwork coming in October this will be a momentary problem and will give them the breadth of set to become worth festival headliners. Whether entirely ready material-wise, or not, when Grace Jones demands over an hour, that is what you play, and they largely delivered.

This was illustrated with an airing of new single “Don’t Press Me”, which pointed to a slight evolution of the band’s music, not least in the addition of sung vocals alongside the detached spoken poetry.

Dry Cleaning’s Meltdown show showed a band more than able to set up to win the biggest stages, and as they go into their second album are poised to have the material to do it. Heavier, looser and more fuzz-driven than on record, this was a big rock experience counter acted by the deliberately un-emotional vocal delivery. Dry Cleaning live is something special.

Dry Cleaning
Dry Cleaning




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