By Neil McCormick
The XX are four 20-year-olds from South London : yes I am now at the age where I am listening to music created by people that are younger than me, who make predominantly slow, melancholic pop music dealing mostly about sex. Coming from the Eliott School in Putney, they join the alumni of great bands that have emerged from there – Four Tet, Hot Chip, Burial and the Maccabees. It is hard to comprehend that this is a debut album, as it feels like its the result of years of honing their craft.
But no, it is a debut album and what a treat we have been given.
Strongly influenced by modern R&B- the group incorporate more abstract elements of the genre: they add a liberal use of bass tones and an unwavering focus on sex and interpersonal relationships into the mix. But its hard to pigeon hole them, influences coming out also include, New Order, The Editors, Blur, and even recent efforts from Radiohead.
Tipped for great things, the first single “Crystalised” featured as the single of the week on itunes during the summer. “Crystalised” has a riff, Blur would gladly claim for their own – the new Song 2?
The opening track “Intro” is a call to arms with a beat reminding me of Unkle and even Dj Shadow would be pround to claim ownership of.
Singer-guitarist Romy Madley Croft sings like a siren during the song “Shelter”, “Maybe I had said/ Something that was wrong/ Can I make it better/ With the lights turned on,” it’s unclear what she is singing about but if you remove the idea its sex – it doesnt work.
Croft’s fellow vocalist, bassist Oliver Sim, fills in the other spaces via his responsive vocals . I should point out that Sim’s voice can fall foul of sounding ugly. But lets face it indie music wouldnt exist without a dodgy male vocal.
Another thing that goes against the grain is that they dont use a drummer – a nod is made with the less than frequent use of a drum machine. The thing that surprises is that the drums are not missed.
Its a cliche you hear time and time again – that an album is the perfect “nightime” album – made for listening to during the “wee small hours”. Well I am not going to go against this concept, as I have found during the course of reviewing that this album is perfect during those hours.
On first listen XX might seem sterile, but reward is given by listening several times. Subtle things you missed first time around comes alive and beguiles you. I urge you to give this a chance – its something different.
Stand out tracks – Crystalised, VCR, Infinity, Shelter.
Electro-candy Score 8 – is this really only a debut album?