Album Review: The xx – xx (The Young Turks)

Joe Hyam 1 October 2009

The XX exercise the power of restraint. There is no bluster or affectation; even the artwork is strikingly minimalist. They give their songs space, realising ideas with pinpoint control, and reap the benefits.

From the spiralling instrumental introduction onwards, their debut maintains a mood of measured introspection, with an underlying frisson of tension and urgency. Admittedly, the record perhaps walks a tricky tightrope between the monochrome and the monotonous, but highlight tracks such as “VCR”, “Islands”, and recent singles “Basic Space” and “Crystalised” are delivered with an irresistible poise and charm.

Reverb-heavy guitar lines ebb and flow, deep basslines murmur, tasteful keys and unfussy drum machines provide punctuation, and the band’s own Jamie Smith draws full effect from the sum of these parts with his sparing, atmospheric production. Dual lead vocals see Oliver Sim’s winsome croon serve as the ideal foil for Romy Madley Croft’s graceful, full-bodied tone. The delivery is direct and compulsive, while the lyrics deal in allusion and understatement, imparting latent sexual suggestion and wistful vulnerability.

xx ingratiates itself gradually, to the point when explanations for its allure become unnecessary; instead, as Croft assuredly intones in “VCR”, ‘You, / You just know, / You just do’.

Joe Hyam