Are you trapped in the throes of a love affair gone
bad? Feeling the sting of unrequited infatuation? The XX
has created the perfect soundtrack for your suffering!
The XX formed in London four years ago. Romy
Madley Croft, (vocals, guitars) and Oliver Sim (vocals, bass)
began collaborating as teenagers. With the addition of guitarist
Baria Qurashi and Jamie Smith handling beats and production
chores, the sound of the XX coalesced.
In 2009 the band released their self-titled debut to
rapturous critical acclaim. By 2010 they won England’s
prestigious Mercury Prize.
Returning with their sophomore effort, Coexist,
the XX have jettisoned the talents of Baria Qurashi. As a trio
they have managed to craft the perfect break up/make up record.
The opening track, “Angels” sets the mood. Bleak, angular
guitar riffs and a martial cadence lay the foundation for Croft’s
breathless words of co-dependence:
“And with words unspoken, a silent devotion/I know you know what
I mean…being as in love with you as I am.”
On most of the songs here Croft and Sims adopt the roles
of tortured lovers. By trading verses they offer up contrasting points
of view. “Try” is an anguished tale of forbidden love. Here eerie, spatial guitar filigrees glide in and out of the melody. “And if we
try once more, would you give me it all/I won’t believe it till I can
On “Reunion,” bubbling percussion and steel drums
cushion the torment of doomed lovers pondering reconciliation.
“Tides” weds a plaintive guitar to a kick drum beat. The tone is
desolate: “You leave with the tide, and I can’t stop you leaving/
I can see it in your eyes, some things have lost their meaning.”
Musically , The XX mine 80s influences like the Cure, Cocteau
Twins and Depeche Mode. Croft’s chanteuse style vocals echoes
90s artists like Mazzy Star and Portishead. Those touchstones blend
perfectly on two songs, “Sunset” and “Swept away.”
On “Sunset” the thumping beats, languid guitar chords and
snaking bass lines collide. The instrumentation accents the mixed
up confusion of star-crossed lovers.
Anchored by lush piano fills, initially “Swept Away” unfolds
at a leisurely pace. But the tempo shifts, the insistent click-track
beat mimics the urgency and longing of this lover’s lament.
Three songs move The XX out of their Gothic dark
shadows, expanding the sonic palette on Coexist.
Romantic dissolution is wrapped in a seductive melody
on “Chained.” Sims recalls their claustrophobic symbiosis:
“We used to be closer than this, is it something you miss/ did
I hold you too tight, did I not let enough light in?” All the while
modal guitar figures dance between the verses.
“Fiction” weds pulsating guitar chords to fever-dream lyrics.
Finally, on “Missing” stutter percussion and keening guitars underscore
the anguish of love gone bad.
By the time “Our Song” closes out the album the listener
may be reaching for the Prozac, or signing up to an “eharmony”
If you are looking to “get ur freak on,” better cue up some
Missy Elliot or Marvin Gaye. Coexist is a wistful and cathartic ride
into the heart of romantic darkness. A perfectly rendered and most