Sep 07, 2012 Issue #42 - The Protest Issue
Back around the time of recording Kid A, Thom Yorke professed that he was "bored of melody." Twelve years down the line, it seems that The xx, a band whose near-eponymous debut album saw them achieve Radiohead levels of acclaim, have reached a similar conclusion that there's more, as well as less, to a song than a hooky refrain.
With xx in 2009, the London band arguably opened the floodgates for a tide of minimalist acts with songs drowned in reverb that washed over the hipster scene, from Baltimore's Beach House to New York's Exitmusic. The record demonstrated that space, both between the chords and as a place to chill out in the mind of the listener, was priceless, and combined this with a sex-fuelled drive for what always seemed to deliberately fall just short of the perfect pop hook.
It's therefore a brave move by the trio to go for a more stripped-back approach on their new record, Coexist. The melodies and almost-catchy choruses have gone the way of every last superfluous note, dispensed with as a frivolity. This sounds as though it should make for an exciting and challenging album... alas, this is not the case.
Those hoping for a sophomore record as compelling as xx or as seamlessly genre-bending as producer Jamie xx's remix work with the likes of Radiohead or Gil Scott Heron on the brilliant We're New Here, should be sorely disappointed by the lack of ideas that mars Coexist's first nine tracks. It's only once "Swept Away" comes along, with its ominous synth bassline ambling into the speakers, that you're reminded of what this band is capable of.
Yes, it's as laid-back and relaxing as pop music can get, but the sparseness has transcended the band's aesthetic and wormed its way into their hitherto impressive creative oeuvre; it's almost as if they're looking to rise above the dream pop clones that the first record spawned, but the end result is a record that feels phoned in. (www.thexx.info)
Author rating: 5/10
Average reader rating: 5/10