Dry Cleaning – Stumpwork

Dry Cleaning surpass themselves with a gentler, broader sound on Stumpwork

Album Review by Laurie Presswood | 18 Oct 2022
  • Dry Cleaning - Stumpwork
Album title: Stumpwork
Artist: Dry Cleaning
Label: 4AD
Release date: 21 Oct

Stumpwork is a mellower outing than anything that's come before it, stepping away from Dry Cleaning's distinct weighty sound in multiple directions. Even Florence Shaw's vocals, which have always had a detached edge, at times take on a dream-like quality as she drops in flashes of a gentle singing voice. Lyrically Shaw remains unparalleled – queen of the post-punk talkies. Somehow Stumpwork heightens everything that has always been special about her writing, the mix of humour, perceptive poignancy and relatability all delivered with a surgical precision.

The drop in pace seems to have opened up new possibilities in terms of the kinds of sounds being produced. There's still the moody, propelling bass we've heard from Dry Cleaning elsewhere (although at no point does Stumpwork emulate the anger and frustration found on Scratchyard Lanyard and its ilk), but it co-exists with a groovy, syncopated rhythm section on Anna Calls From the Arctic (even featuring saxophone), an almost grunge-like guitar as on Driver's Story, and an intro to Don't Press Me which wouldn't sound out of place on Talking Heads' Fear of Music. This is what makes the album such a finely-tuned success – each instrument is put to use across multiple genres, experimenting with a collection of new sounds. The result is a moment of exciting expansion.

Listen to: Anna Calls From the Arctic, Liberty Log, Icebergs