Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The xx

  • The xx [XL/Young Turks, 2009] A
  • Coexist [Young Turks, 2012] A-
  • I See You [Young Turks, 2017] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The xx [XL/Young Turks, 2009]
Their minimalism is so contained that as you warm against your better judgement to the well-spaced notes, subtle depth charges, and ostinato hooks with which they couch their gentle cool, you figure that the matched female-and-male drawls the music sets off will prove unworthy of further commitment. But soon you learn that these two Southwest London 20-year-olds--to leave out their ancillary and now departed guitarist and crucial but probably not generative young producer-drummer--aren't being minimal to prove they're any shade of cool. It's more like they're being minimal because they're shy. Rather than resorting to an obscurantism they're too decent for or feigning a sophistication few achieve, they trade ideas about intimacy as contemporaries, comrades, prospects, lovers, ex-lovers, and friends. It's hard to imagine their music getting much better. But it's not hard to imagine their lives getting much better. Which may be all their music needs. A

Coexist [Young Turks, 2012]
Even sparer and stiller than their minimalist debut, this will hit any normal listener as a hyperaesthetic downer--a bore. After three years, couldn't two clever lads and their clever lassie devise some clever twist that would lively them up without soiling their precious principles? But the music does eventually tiptoe in, and quiet as its kept the lyrics tiptoe on in with them. Damn right this group is obsessed, artistically, with young love, which in case you didn't know remains a grand theme of universal significance, and these scrupulously abstract verses capture its obsessive doubts and fragile exaltations with delicacy and tenderness. Like it or not, they add up to a song cycle with a happy ending--the joy of which may grow in wisdom or crumble back toward nothingness tomorrow. A-

I See You [Young Turks, 2017]
If anything, this is the most "accessible" of their three albums--four if you count Jamie xx's more eventful, more instrumental solo shot. It gets your attention right from the faux horn fanfare that occupies its first six seconds, and I can name from memory songs I actively enjoy, to be precise the catchy "On Hold," the needy "Say Something Loving," the frail "Brave for You," and . . . I forget. That's the problem--however impressive their originality and skill, the details always end up getting away, because in the end the band's shared aesthetic is so contained. As you probably recall yourself. Or do you? B+

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