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September 24, 2012 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Stray Thoughts on The xx’ Coexist; pop culture references ahoy

A review of The xx’ latest release, Coexxist.

I find their choice not to the name the album ‘coexxist’ utterly baffling. Obviously they have no appreciation for the fine art that is the pun. Philistines!

I am going to run out of synonyms for ‘longing’ by the fourth paragraph.

There is a creepy fratboy claim that postulates: ‘I love high school girls; I get older but they stay the same age’. So it is with The xx — it has been three years since their debut and they’re apparently still dreamy, bored, pining teenagers in the clutches of hormones and confusion. There is no progression, no attempt to build in sound or texture, no attempt to branch out of the comfort of teenage angst and melancholy. What was charming, beguiling three years ago is now dreary, tedious. (Note: the adage ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is one i’ve never had time for).

Business idea: The xx XXX. Scenes involve clumsy make-out sessions, feeble attempts to unhook bras, a laconic man and wide-eyed woman staring yearningly out of different windows. I suspect, based on The xx’s popularity, I would be tapping into a lucrative market.

Optimal listening conditions = drizzly weather, grey skies, listless Sundays.

What minor alterations The xx have made to their overall sound are interesting; the melodies and drum-patterns have more oomph, more tszuj. Conversely, though, the album lacks the chemistry and intimacy of it’s predeccesor — the elements sound curiously isolated from one another, the intersecting vocals more distant and insoucient. It is as if if Coexist was recorded mid-band-spat, where the members abjectly refused to remain in the same room as each other for a moment longer than neccesary. The songs suffer for it; they’re about as poignant and ingenuous as a bereavement card that consoles ‘Deeply Sorry for Your Loss — If only it was your car keys and not your Father’.

Listening to Coexist I feel the same way as I do watching The Notebook, say, or One Day: while some bits are touching, the emotive elements feel deliberately constructed to the point of emotional manipulation. Substitute if you will ‘terminal illness’ with vocals that long and sigh; ‘lost love’ with a pervading ethereal and wistful atmophere; ‘passionate kisses in the rain’ for lyrics like “Part of you stays a while/

Even when you’re far away”. I feel as though my emotional reaction has been meticulously calculated before i’ve even listened to it, a surgically precise album that as such doesn’t allow the songs (or indeed the listener) to breath, to expand; to coexist.

In directing so much ire towards this album I’m being a little churlish. There are moments to admire here- the lyrics, though delivered in a flat and affectless tone, contain nascent seeds of greatness (see: ‘Chained’). Though the songs are for the most part unremarkable and monochromatic, ‘Angel’ is pretty good, albeit evidence of the afore-mentioned coasting. Closer ‘Our Song’ is astonishing, evidence of what the band are capable of when running on all cylinders.

Ultimately, I feel as though The xx’s potential is being squandered on material as lacklustre as this. They seem content to languish in territory already well trod; a severe case of arrested development gone unremedied. What the hell happened team?

“Growing old is inevitable, but never growing up is possible”-Johnny Depp.


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