Monday, 22 February 2010

Hype Machininsts

Three tenths of the Hype Machine top 10 is currently being taken up by songs involving the Xx: three remixes, then another mp3, 'Intro', at #18. This is as important, in this age of genre schizophrenia, as any other measure of cultural value, surely marking this album out as the biggest since Justice appeared on every single blog on the internet.

Of course, sparse beats with plaintive vocals are eminently remixable, especially with a fashionable dubstep aesthetic. The album is also incredibly intimate, sometimes feeling like eavesdropping on a private conversation, and this intimacy translates nicely into certain schools of downtempo electronic music.

This success, then, is unsurprising: hype is hype, the album is great and the sublime soporific wash of downtempo dubstep continues unabated. What is strange, though, is how long it took me to realise it was good. I loved Justice as soon as I heard them, the same with other blog-hyped acts like Boys Noize, Burial, Miike Snow and Animal Collective. But I hated the Xx: boring, depressing and inexplicably loved by everyone.

Maybe it's a lack of immediacy. I always hated The Smiths, grating at Morrissey's intonation and bored by the pace. And I'm from Manchester. It was only when, from the molasses of popular culture, a few songs had slipped in to my consciousness, and I was forced to sit down with The Queen is Dead that I realised how great they were. The Xx are like like the Smiths in a number of ways: subtle, nuanced and deeply personal.

I have spent an adolescence bouncing off walls and grinning to big silly drops, offensively crunchy synths and unashamedly yobbish tunes, but had always felt that something was missing. A 'Sunday Playlist' at Uni attempted to address this void, filling up with acoustic tunes and minimal house, but that lost its purpose when I graduated and no longer had whole days to sacrifice to lying in bed and listening to soporific indie music.

The Xx do fill this gap though, and do it beautifully. They deserve the plaudits on blogs and in the press, and may even teach me patience and an appreciation of subtlety again.

Currently #5 in the Hype top 10:

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