Tuesday, 28 August 2012

''Coexist'' The xx - A Review

It's been 3 whole years since we first heard the sensual sounds of The xx and it's not hard to see why their self titled debut became both a critical and commercial sensation; in an age of increasingly complex arrangements and layered soundscapes, the simplistic, yet evocative sound of ''xx'' was a refreshing, yet genuinely intruiging change of pace. Their back-to-basics ethic consisted of a traditional guitar and bass set up backed by the synths and beats of Jamie xx, as Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim crooned their way through a series of sexually charged, romantic tunes.

So the long awaited return of the London trio was inevitably going to spark a wave of hype that would prove near impossible to live up to. The main concern of fans from what I've heard so far through forums and such is that Coexist is not better than its predecessor. The frequency of this complaint seems to be missing the point of actually listening to the record itself as a single entity and forgetting the incredible standard The xx had originally set for themselves. As many bands that came before now know, a brilliant first record is as much a burden as it is a blessing; the likes of Interpol, The Strokes, and Bloc Party all had early 2000's debuts which still shadow them with every release to this day, so to expect an improvement on an album that many claimed as best of the year in 2009 is as unreasonable as it is unrealistic.

Instead what we have is another perfectly assembled collection of xx tunes that deal with pretty much the same subjects as before; love, sex and relationships are once again the main topic of discussion as Sim and Croft play off one another vocally throughout and while some will complain of no change, there was never any real need for it in the first place. The main difference in lyrical respects seems to be the attitude of both singers towards the relationships they so often sing about; if ''xx'' was the sound of two people falling in love, then ''Coexist'' seems to be the dissolution of a partnership and an attempt to deal with the fallout.

Madley Croft opens the album with ''Angels'', a typically intimate xx number as she laments ''Being in love with you/ Being in love, love, love...''. It's fairly obvious stuff but from here things get more interesting as we begin to witness a quiet evolution in the bands signature sound as the emergence of Jamie xx results in pulsating club-like beats and electronic experimentation which come to surface in ''Chained'', ''Reunion'', and ''Missing'', all of which are notable highlights of ''Coexist''. The hint of electronic beauty that underlines the record is what carries ''Coexist'' through it's 11 tracks and gives hope for the bands future outside of their first release. The expansion of sound on ''Coexist'', while relatively low key, reflects a significant step forward for the band by the indication that The xx want to learn and develop, and this is the most important thing we can take from ''Coexist''.

Ultimately, while ''Coexist'' cannot replicate the flawless beauty of the bands debut, this sophomore release see's The xx beginning a process of moving on to new territory while retaining their original principals, and successfully navigating second album syndrome by producing 11 songs and 40 mins of the delicate indie rock that made us love them in the first place- and really, this is all we could have asked for.