Following the wake of the ever-expanding pantheon of Timbaland-aspiring indie scum, we meet The XX: four jaded, sex-obsessed, pseudo-libertine 20-year-old Londonite self-proclaimed musical omnivores. The type when asked, “What are you so apathetic about?”, answers “What you got?” Yeah, those kids.
Character judgments aside, these post teens are the darlings of the English music press before the release of their first single, “Basic Space,” in early August. It’s no surprise that Pitchfork and NME creamed themselves once the band’s self-titled debut came out two weeks later.
And why not? On paper, the band’s style and approach is nothing short of spectacular. Take several helpings of The Neptunes and Aaliyah, a dash of classic indie pop and C86, mix in minimalist drones and a hint of Dark Wave, and there you have it – the sleazy, seductive sounds of xx.
Then again, hypothetical estimations rarely reflect reality. Out of context, individual songs hold up relatively well, with moments of charm and ingenuity. But listening through the entirety of the album in one sitting is the musical equivalent of water boarding. The nuances that give life to individual tracks are quickly driven into the ground, as the group insistently uses them in every single song. The refreshing, monotonous drone eventually turns into basic, plain-old monotony.
The most easily observable flaw, if not the album’s pitfall, has to be the singing. Vocalists Oliver Sim and Romy Hadley Craft sing in an intertwining, hazy, call-and-response fashion not unlike early Nineties Twee outfits The Field Mice and The Orchids. Whereas the charm of those bands comes from the implied romantic chemistry between the singers (forced or real), Craft and Sim’s delivery is dry and affectless, further dulling a slow and predictable record.
The album remains too hip and resigned for its own good: overly self-conscious make-out music that goes nowhere and desires to go nowhere. The slickness and sleaze that initially seems inviting soon becomes childish and repugnant.
Give these tracks a listen: “Intro,” “Fantasy”
For Fans Of: Fiery Furnaces, Rihanna
– Boris Freyman