The XX

Written By: Steve Sawyer

Listening to The XX’s debut, eponymous, album should be considered substance abuse. And not for any negative consequence that listening to the album may bring, but rather because the music leaves the listener in such a state of euphoria that it’s absolutely drug-like. The music has induced such a deep state of unshakable catatonia upon myself that I find I’m unable to escape the rhythmic bass lines, or the haunting echoes of the intricate, and absolutely chilling vocal work. It’s so perfect, that it kind of bothers me.

Take for example the opening of the album itself. The drone of sound that hits you is tonal hypnotherapy pure and simple, and it could be said that within the first minute, if you aren’t hooked you may be one of the few immune to the drug. But for me, and for what I suspect will be the rest of the population, there was an immediate addiction formed. It’s funny how I didn’t even notice the song “VCR” creep up on me after the intro, it’s delicate chiming, and soft snare almost lullabied me away. And when Romy’s voice hits, it’s absolutely out of this world, it hasn’t been since I first heard Maynard James Keenan’s voice on a Tool album that I’ve been so simultaneously creeped out, and breathtaken. “Crystalised” is as close to a perfect rock song you could get. It’s minimalistic brooding approach, and it’s refusal to do anything but get under your skin as quickly as possible is captivating in a very terrifying way. By the time the album gets to “Shelter” I’m just absolutely awash in the ocean of sound.

The album is a truly inspired collection of songs that encapsulate the experience of living in the modern age. It’s strange, but I feel like the music is the perfect soundtrack to the almost cynical society we’ve created for ourselves. The lyrics are self-deprecating enough to make the music not only relatable, but downright essential. But at no point do they ever loom ideas over your head, or make you stretch for meaning intended or implied. And that radically stripped down approach has made for the single best release of 2009. More prominent bands that keep adding more gloss, sound, and production magic to their equation should take note of the work that’s on display on the album. I have a feeling that even older groups that have the advantage of years over the relatively new The XX will learn quite a few things about songwriting after submitting themselves to repeat listens.

And it’s all made that much more perplexing by the fact that they’re all only nineteen years old. Not only that, but this is the band’s debut. No albums precede this one, and yet they display a level of maturity, and depth that most bands strive to achieve in an entire career. It’s so startling to see such young talent being able to accomplish so much with just one release, but they’ve managed to do it. But what happens when a band is this good this immediately? Have they set the bar impossibly high for themselves, or will they simply make it look easy, when it’s time for the next go around? I’m certainly rooting for them, and hoping that they can pull it off, because if this album is any indicator of their future career, the world is going to be their oyster.

It’s odd, I typically wax verbally, and semi-philosophically when it comes to talking about music that I love, and for the first time in a very long time, I’m almost completely at a loss for words. I feel like I’ve said everything that’s needed to say about The XX in order for someone to just dive in and enjoy them, but at the same time simply because I’m used to being so wordy, and full of praise for those that I admire, I’m hesitant to draw this to a close. But I’m going to take my own advice, and learn from the example set by The XX. Sometimes simplicity is better. Go buy their album.

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