Pouting lips and longing stares, slow-burning cigarettes in dark rooms, an uncomfortable love and an uncomfortable listen. These are the things I think about when I recall the xx’s self-titled debut. When it dropped in 2009 I might have been one of the few people in the world who heard it and thought “meh”. The understated album, with the exception of the single “Crystalised,” failed to move me.
Today, the UK trio dropped “Chained”, the second offering made public off their upcoming sophomore album, Coexist, set for release Sept. 11. It is the polar opposite of “meh” – whatever that may be. The song’s main ingredient is the same as that of the band’s debut – namely, the tension between vocalists Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim as they replay the events that resulted in a relationship hitting the rocks. Eerie, spacebound keys and a driving, yet restrained drumbeat pierce through the heartbreak and disillusionment.
“We used to be closer than this,” Madley-Croft declares, before Sim joins her in the recollection. “We used to get closer than this/Is it something you miss?” The duo punctuates the refrain with a question that leaves room for a reunion – even if it offers only a shell of what they once had.
A reunion with the xx? Before today, I would have said, “no, thanks.” However, after listening to “Chained” a dozen or more times, I am willing to concede there might have been something I missed about the xx.