Review: The xx – Coexist
Published on September 18th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Well, this is pretty dull. Pretty, sure, but ultimately dull. That may be an opinion that would attract opprobrium from those whose Mexican wave of swoons rode the band’s 2009 debut xx to Mercury success, but unless you’re numb from heartbreak and/or on a comedown then Rocksucker would find it hard to recommend Coexist‘s eleven tracks of The Same Basic Thing Over and Over Again.
In saying that, Jamie Smith deserves credit for a set of fine and admittedly diverse beats, but the wall-to-wall monged, minor-key guitar work and lovelorn lyrics of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim weary by the third or fourth round of it. Smother it all in reverb and a general air of late-night smokiness, and bingo: you’ve just gunned down a barrel load of fish there, mister.
The guitar lick of opener “Angels” is particularly familiar – more in a suspicion-arousing way than an ‘instant classic’ way, it must be said – but it’s nicely propped up by Smith’s clattery drums and a sparse, open production that really lets you feel the bass. If you like “Angels”, you’ll either love the rest of the record or despair at how gosh darn similar-sounding it all is. Rocksucker is in the latter camp.
Every now and then a lyric tugs at the old heartstrings – “We used to get closer than this / Is it something you miss?” from “Chained” might be particularly affecting for anyone caught up in the aftermath of a breakup – but the predominant simplicity is such that the busy steel drum motif of “Reunion” comes as a blessed relief, even results in some lovely floatiness.
The sparse opening of “Tides” successfully captures an emotional starkness which is then extrapolated into sweet strings and funkily probing bass over an authoritarian two-step beat, while closing track “Our Song” wields some energetic pounding before giving way to the kind of cascading, heavily-reverbed, fast-picked guitar that’s so ubiquitous at the moment, but ultimately Coexist is both of and for a very particular mood.
There’s nothing to dislike about The xx – indeed their sound is well-crafted in its field – but the hype surrounding them makes their lack of imagination all the more frustrating.
Rocksucker says: Two and a Half Quails out of Five!
Coexist is out now on Young Turks. For more information please visit thexx.info