Album Revisited: The XX – XX

The XX continue to tag the international concert scene with their iconographic marker XX, kicking off last week in Tokyo and whirlwind-ing Europe and the US for the next three months. Now a threesome since guitarist Baria Qureshi left the band last November, this all-black-clad crew was and still is one of the most exciting new bands on the UK music block, dropping last fall their first album on XL Records through Young Turks, soberly titled XX.

You may want to box it as rock with or without the roll, indie… but who needs the clutter of boxes. Flowing through the barriers of music genres, they had mixed previously their unmistakable guitars’ vibrating-staccato-play and sung murmurs to covers of R&B tracks. See surprising and pitch-modified interpretations of Aaliyah‘s ‘Hot like Fire’ and Womack & Womack‘s ‘Teardrops’.

As I strongly dislike comparisons, I won’t mention who The XX have been paralleled to (Mazzy Star, Radiohead, Chris Isaak – I’d say even The Cure and Depêche Mode – even Lou Reed for sighs and whispers’ style and Tom Petty for melodies)… Oops.

Let’s go back, because the straight sound-truth is that XX is above the all-predictable-even-if-somewhat-successful album composition recipes that storm the air waves on an almost daily basis. The XX black paint elliptic duo-talks of love, devotion and relationships, arching them on wickedly thumbed guitar strings, wielding bass riffs that only cotton-winged synths and samples can subdue.

The 11 track XX opens with the instrumental ‘Intro’ that announces the album’s preference for ‘noir’ atmospheres. Tracks travel tempos from the more upbeats ‘VCR’ , ‘Crystalised’, ‘Shelter’ or ‘Night Time’ to crystalline tunes like ‘Fantasy’, ‘Basic Space’ and ‘Stars’.

The album was recorded in XL records’ studio and for me the echoes applied all over to the whispers of dyad front singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim and to Jamie Smith‘s samples, carry the burning incense mark of XL soul god Scott-Heron, discreet and intense, especially in the electronic-clapping ‘Heart Skipped a Beat’.

I don’t know what I was in a previous life, if such an essence ever existed, but I know that in the next one I want to be a five-stringed guitar (the African version to the seven-string) and The XX’s inspired bass really have me stirred and looking forward to what’s coming next.

–Nadia Ghanem

XX is out now on XL Recordings. You can catch The XX in London on July 13 at Somerset House.
For full UK and international tour dates visit myspace.com/thexx

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