By Micaela Hamilton
XX is one of the latest bands to emerge from London. Their debut album, XX, has a bleak, languishing style and sound that is entirely distinctive. The three members of the band, all of whom are just 20 years old, have already managed to create cohesiveness with their guitar blends and liquid voices. This is not totally unsurprising, as these friends have been playing together for years, which is probably why their debut album displays a level of originality not commonly found in young bands.
Lead vocals, Romy Madley Croft (who also plays lead guitar) and Oliver Sim (bass) blend their voices perfectly, so that neither dominates, while Jamie Smith (beats/sampler) adds to the crooning hypnotism of the music with his soft-set beats. The lyrics capture the anguish and obsessiveness of first love, the landscape of bedsits and urban desolation of neglect and decay. The vocals are pitched low, the lyrics are tortured and aching with longing, while the music is an eclectic mix of traditional and electronic, with a xylophone kick that lifts it out of the mundane.
XX begins with a brief instrumental Intro which gives the listeners their first taste of the moodiness of the band’s music. A tale of love follows in VRC – a xylophonic melody, enhanced by the sultry voices of Sim and Croft.
The band’s first single, Crystalised, is exactly as the name suggests, a crystal gem. One memorable line is, “So don’t think that I’m pushing you away / When you’re the one that I’ve kept closest”. But the album may hang on this number and one or two others. While Infinity has a certain sexiness, it lacks the impact of the previous tracks. A sense of desolation and longing is intimately captured in songs such as Heart skips a beat, Stars and Night time. These tracks obviously wouldn’t be suitable on a sunny day, but are perfect for those tragic, heart-sore nights. But while the band are to be commended for the originality of their sound, the album does risk a certain monotony setting in, with not enough diversity in lyrics or variation in tempo.
With this debut album, the young Londoners exhibit considerable artistry and a maturity that exceeds their years. They are sure to attract a following, although for this listener, sadly, the album ultimately doesn’t deliver. But I’m curious to see what they do next.