fri 03/07/2020

CD: The xx – Coexist | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The xx – Coexist

CD: The xx – Coexist

More moody atmospherics from the politest band in pop?

The xx: Well, that's the dinner party soundtrack sorted for 2012 and 2013

One of the current tropes in stand-up comedy is the way that television appropriates music to manipulate emotions. Sean Hughes employs a flurry of Snow Patrol when he acts out buying some bread, while newcomer David Trent has Sigur Rós on his soundtrack as he celebrates winning a piffling £10 on the Lottery. Which brings us to The xx. The young band's Mercury Prize-winning 2009 debut album became a dinner party staple and a default promo choice, plugging everything from the BBC's Election coverage to teen tosh 90210. Their sequel must be as eagerly anticipated by creatively moribund marketing departments as it is by the band's fans.

It will be interesting to see how Coexist is co-opted by the mainstream. On the surface the album features more fragile atmospherics, but this feels much darker, mixing relationship regret and post-success comedown. On "Chained" Romy Madley Croft asks regretfully,"Did I hold you too tight?" Yet despite the bleakness and loss this is also a sexy album. Oliver Sim sings, "Will you miss me?" over a woozily sensual soundscape on “Missing” as Madley Croft sighs in the background. "Take me to that place where it's control I lose," pleads Madley Croft on "Swept Away" before a thudding industrial clang kicks in.

While the trademark sparseness is instantly recognisable there is a definite progression here, with the already-present dancefloor element more frequently foregrounded. On "Reunion"  the pounding of steel drums sets up an infectious shuffling beat. Like fellow Brits (and fellow alumni of Putney's Elliott School) Hot Chip the trio manages to be utterly buttoned up and yet also seethingly soulful. Coexist will presumably seep into commercial breaks, but this is an album that sounds far, far better when it isn't being used to make politics cool or flog E4 dramas. And that's no joke.

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