Review Summary: Copy and paste formula fails to enthral as much as its predecessor.
The xx’s self-titled debut album roused up a perfect storm upon its release; counteracting the irking and to some extent overtly complicated music production of the late naughties, xx turned the concept of indietronica on its head with smoky, minimal production, catchy songwriting and a heart rending story of two deeply lovesick individuals refusing to see the reality of their situation. It was the perfect antidote to the rise of dubstep, an LP the listener could immerse in, the perfect chill-out tool. Coexist; The XX’s sophomore effort seems to continue in the same vein as its predecessor, the sparse production courtesy of Jamie xx (who’s stock had since risen due to his stunning Gill Scott Heron remix album) is retained, as is the haunting portrait of two alienated and despondent lovers separated by their unwillingness to reunite.
Something seems instantly ajar upon the first listen of Coexist. The LP’s lead single and opening track, Angles has a distinct, detached feel. Isolated and without the comforting interactive harmonies of bassist and Oliver Sim, Angles is compelling as it is somber, “They would be as in love you as I am” sings Madley Croft to Oliver, a solemn construction of a scene which finds them as broken souls; isolated from the reality of their surroundings. The picture perfect melody is present as is the dense but sparse atmosphere, resulting in Angels being an ever so different but successful opener. If Coexist gets anywhere close to the upbeat euphony of there titled debut, it is on Chained. Back are the heavenly lyrics, intertwined callouts and simple syncopated drumbeats, which made their debut so special. Albeit, this success unfortunately short lived.
The slide to mediocrity on Coexist like its music is a slow paced affair. Fiction continues where Chained left off with a beautiful guitar riff, while Try feels its way through three minutes incessantly begging out for a remix of its own. Though Coexist does indeed have a heart, and a very beautiful one at that, its problem is that it lacks any muscle to exercise its stunning foundations. What remains thus, for the albums second fragment are the same beats, echoed vocals, drowsy guitar and melancholy concepts. It is as though you have been invited to a celebration at the world’s most beautiful vista and no one, but you turns up.
Madley Croft only recently said that the making of Coexist was a difficult one. Some concepts can only go so far without alteration, and with Coexist it seems that while its core is still hot its outer reaches are certainly dim.