This is the second of my reviews for our round up of Mercury Music award nominees. This time it’s back to something completely unfamiliar to me, Jamie XX. Googling discovered that he is also a member of London based, Indie Pop band The XX, whom I have heard of, what with them being quite famous and that. I know nothing of their music however, just that they missed a trick with their name. See I thought it must be pronounced The Doublecross, quite clever that. Unfortunately it’s just plain old The Ex Ex. Disappointing.Taking the band name as his surname might have seemed like a good, unifying idea in principal, it worked for The Ramones. However in this case it presents an issue I doubt he foresaw:
“HEY M8. JST BIN TASHIN OFF WITH RLY FIT LAD. L8RS JAMIE XX”
Anyway, sitting down to review this and on the first listen through it becomes glaringly obvious that I can wholeheartedly file this in the ‘Not My Thing’ folder right away. I’ve not had good experiences with Indie influenced Dance/Synth Pop in previous Mercury years but I’ll do my best to review with an open mind and be as objective as possible. I don’t suppose a Jamie XX fan would fully appreciate the majestic wonders of Manowar if they had to review them either.
The first track is called Gosh. I can only assume its full title is Oh My Gosh, I Forgot Everything But The Drum Track And The Samples! It kind of reminds of Fingathing but without the Sci Fi geekiness. There’s some nice atmospherics towards the end of the song but it never really gets going other than that.
The discordant but gentle Sleep Sound ensures I will do just that. There are kind of vocals but they’re sampled and blend into the music too much to be classed as proper vocals. I can imagine this being used as the background music for the latest Samsung product or something. Seesaw offers more of the same, albeit opening up with a livelyish hip hop beat. It soon gets buried beneath layers of bleeping however. There are guest vocals from Romy Madley Croft, one of his bandmates from The XX. Her voice is as buried as the beats though and you can barely tell the song isn’t an instrumental.
The next song, Obvs, starts off based around some great steel drums and has a dreamlike quality I never thought to get from steel drums. Best song so far by a mile. This is followed by a short instrumental called Just Saying that contributes nothing to In Colour. Just saying.
Well hello, what’s this?! Some actual proper singing? Stranger In A Room features guest vocals from his other erstwhile bandmate Oliver Sim. I imagine this is what The XX sound like normally? It’s alright, bit dull but pleasant enough. We’re back to the instrumental soundscapes with Hold Tight. Sounds like incidental music from a Mad Max film. Loud Places again features Romy off of The XX but this time she’s thankfully audible. There’s a smoky, jazzy feel to this song that's appreciated and an album with more stuff like it would have been much more preferable.
I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) clearly has its parentheses in the wrong places. It also features more guest vocalists, this time it’s a pair of chaps called Popcaan and Young Thug. You can tell he’s a thug because of his deplorable language. As a song it stands out from the rest of the album as it’s pretty much full on Hip Hop. It’s an enjoyable song, dunno why he bunged most of the interesting songs on the end of the album instead of spread throughout but there you go.
The Rest Is Noise is a listenable enough instrumental. There’s some nice plinky plonky piano and parping synths halfway through. I like parping.
The final track is simply called Girl. It’s softer than the previous few songs, though the muddled samples sound like a bad trip. It’s a reasonably uneventful song to end the album with and it just sort of stops with no fanfare or respectful nod goodbye. Oh.
So yeah, I didn’t really enjoy it as a whole, though I was never going to. There’s parts of it that I liked but I’m still baffled that, with hundreds, thousands even, of British acts in multiple genres out there, this has been nominated for a Mercury Award. The aforementioned Fingathing do this sort of stuff so much better. Zan Lyons or Professor Kliq too.
4 out of 10 - Well, It's alright but still...
Listen to In Colour on Spotify HERE
Buy it on Amazon HERE