The XX – XX (9)
I’m not sure what’s more worrying about The XX: the fact that such young musicians could produce a debut album of this calibre or the troubled adolescence that led up to this tortured, haunting record. There is something so delicate and vulnerable about Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim’s voices, which feels as though they are on the brink of personal disaster and feel a collective pain. You get the impression that the pair took the lyrical content of their R&B influences completely to heart, and used it to channel their own deep-seeded tenderness.
This is by no means a loud record, but it has no need to be. The band are able to communicate their upset over a background of heavy bass and careful guitar play, reminiscent of the more macabre efforts of The Cure. The choice of the band to use MPC created beats perfectly compliments the smooth, sultry sound of the South London foursome. Anything else would have been too overpowering to the thick atmospheric setting that had already been generated, and would have appeared contrived on what is one of the most considered albums in years. In fact, the loudest part of the album comes halfway through ‘Fantasy’, when a rumbling bass line comes out of the backing track that was starting to sound more like Stars of the Lid than a pop tune. Though they are widely labelled as a pop act, the overriding poignancy of XX makes even more poppy efforts such as ‘Basic Space’ sound like the most melancholy-filled Saturday night Joe Goddard has ever had.
There is a subtle epicness to this debut that achieves a level of introspection and electronic schizophrenia that only M83 has been able to produce in recent times. The decision of the band to shy away from interfering producers, allowing instead for keyboardist Jamie Smith to take the reigns, means that this record is completely theirs. As a result, there is not one hint of compromise, no moments of hurriedness, and not one second of this sound that isn’t The XX. The most exciting thing about this album is that I’ve been listening to it on repeat, and I’m still constantly finding new pieces of the music I enjoy and imagining new places that I would love to listen to it.
One of the most hyped bands of the year have retired away to a quiet corner, with only themselves for company and produced an album of such consequence that it will be relevant to everyone, even those bastards who were mean to them at school. Flawless.
2 years ago