The xx ‘On Hold’ Song Review

Well who saw this one coming eh? Judging by the comment section on the video put up on YouTube, not a single person on the face of the Earth. But thankfully The xx have returned! Now I never was an avid fan of this group, I thought they had a couple decent tracks and sounded pretty unique, but they just weren’t my thing. At the time I was going through a dad-rock/stateside rock stage so I didn’t really get to appreciate what they were doing. But little did I know that I have these guys to thank for my previous ambient music successes. They allowed for more vivid and vibrant music to hit the charts and headlines; to be honest, they were the first huge ambient group to hit the big time. Not only did they hit the big time, they became ruddy stratospheric. Deservedly so. So what did I think of this huge comeback? Please be good…

Well it’s okay, just okay in my opinion. Clearly Jamie xx has taken the reign over songwriting here since it sounds pretty identical to his solo work. That doesn’t excite me that much because I’m not actually a fan of his solo work I find it a little pretentious and dull. However that doesn’t mean this track is a dud. It’s really not, but it just lacks that flair and intricacy that I’d expect from this group.

The production is pretty good for the most part but there are some flaws. Jamie’s voice sounds much louder in the mix than Romy’s and that’s my first problem. Rather than them working in unison, it sounds like he’s singing over her which I really didn’t like. I also thought the synths lacked tone and timbre; they came across pretty lifeless unfortunately. I just think if you compare this track to say a recent Nordic Giants track, it would be swallowed up. Don’t get me wrong, everything sounded functional and fairly decent, but it just didn’t have much soul to it.

The musicality of the song is pretty good. The form is progressive and developmental, the progressions are interesting and quirky, and there are moments that call back to vintage xx qualities. However, and this might offend and upset a lot of people, it just came across a little boring. Nothing really happened or escalated; to me there wasn’t a single significant moment. Now is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, I’ve always loved minimalism when it comes to music. But here it just felt quite dull and stagnant; everything felt a little static. There weren’t any interesting harmonies, no polyphonic/homophonic melodies and nothing to really vary things up a little bit. It suffers from not being catchy, and it isn’t to me, it’s just not catchy.

Lyrically the song is functional but each word didn’t’ carry much meaning to me as I found both performances quite subdued. I felt no impact or relatability to the song; I felt more distracted than gripped in.

All in all then a very, very disappointing track. But you’ve got to look at the positives here. The group is back together, they are releasing a new album and they are touring soon, and that’s going to make a whole ton of fans very happy.

5/10 – Really disappointed, but this cloud has a silver lining.

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