xx is the (partially) eponymous debut album by The xx. I recently took to listening to it due to their recent Mercury Prize nomination. I can remember a huge amount of media hype and critical acclaim surrounding the release when it came out in late summer last year but I totally ignored it. After all, what does the media know?
I eventually downloaded the album after I saw they were one of the most hotly tipped artists to scoop a Mercury nomination and still I didn't really get what the fuss was all about. It sounded over-simple, lazy, and a bit miserable and for a few weeks it lay forgotten in murky depths of my music library.
That was until, after the Mercury nom, I decided to do a bit of research into the different albums and music videos that had been released for each. I found 'Islands'. A video of sheer brilliance that forced me to reconsider my opinion.
xx Cover Art.
Okay, so its ultra-artistic, a bit poncey and symbolic and maybe a little full of itself, but the choreography and cinematography are spot on. It certainly looks sleek and though its themes aren't anything new (Joy Division inspired?), its clever. At first watch it appears the dancers are merely repeating the same series of moves around the band as they sing and generally look a bit doleful, but you eventually realise the significance of the band come second to the series of events unfolding around them. There is actually so much going on that the video requires a second, third, fourth watch before you spot the little differences between the segments.
Its a great metaphor describing the monotony and eventual breakdown of a relationship. In the beginning we see brightness, energy and enthusiasm but as it draws on it becomes lethargic, duller and more depressed, eventually breaking down completely, polished off with a lick of flame. Its symbolism works well enough as to not be entirely straightforward, but not so ambiguous as to leave watchers clueless.
It is a video that also complements the content of the song, which describes the security found with a relationship but which ultimately results in the loss of a sense of adventure ("I'm froze by desire/No need to leave"). It also ponders the question of what were to happen if said relationship were to end ("Where would I be/If this were to go under?"). It describes a sense of entrapment, perfectly reflected in the groundhog day repetition of it's video.
Often you see a music video supplement a song with the band mindlessly twanging their instruments, whilst the lead attempts to sync their lyrics whilst gazing forlornly into camera. Occasionally you'll find a video that totally overpowers the song with questionable imagery (that M.I.A. video for example), but rarely do you find a video that strikes a happy medium where they complement each other so well. I had glazed over the song before, but after watching such an intriguing video and actually listening to the song I discovered how strong it was.
Back to the drawing board. There may be more to this record.