The xx – Chained (BBC Live)

I watched you breathe in
And I wished you’d stop
Only for long enough
Long enough

It’s hard to say

Separate or combine
I ask you one last time
Did I hold you too tight?
Did I not let enough light in?

If a feeling appears
If your mind should sway
It’s not a secret you should keep
I won’t let you slip away

Chorus x2
We used to be closer than this

We used to be closer than this
We used to get closer than this
Is it something you missed?

Winged or chained
I ask you would you have stayed
Did I hold you too tight?
Did I not let enough light in?


I have to say I’ve been on a electronic indie binge recently, and it’s been very difficult to pull away from the hypnotizing lure of The xx.

The London-based group have been on a steady rise to fame from the get-go after their debut album in 2010 won the Mercury Award (best music album in the UK + Ireland).

The band has no real lead singer. Instead, guitarist Romy Madley Croft’s crazy beautiful voice effortlessly interplays with bassist Oliver Sims’ equally delicate vocals. Often on tracks, and particularly in their earlier albums, the lyrics are almost just spoken aloud over the music likening it to slam poetry. That’s not a style I am normally a fan of, but the reason it works for The xx is because of the production and genius of the band DJ, Jamie xx who also has a prolific career having been heavily influenced by hip hop.

Fun Fact: The band members are childhood friends, with Croft and Sims practically playing in the same sandbox together from age 3. They befriended Jamie later in school around age 11. It’s difficult to find a more closely-knit band than this one.


Image courtesy of @The_xx.

I want to point out the really minimalist nature of the band. There’s no fancy over the top effects or filters, no distractions from the delivery of the lyrics. Even down to their dress code which could be viewed as modern-Gothic, The xx keeps things simple in an era where that is far from the norm. This style really exemplifies the band’s ability to produce a very intimate sound. In contrast to the well-known shyness of the band members, their music and lyrics betray a much deeper and emotionally connected depth of experience much like a silent lover who feels everything but shares very little.

Dysfunctional relationships seems to be a recurring theme with the songs I choose, and this one is no exception. “Separate or combine, I ask you one last time. Did I hold you too tight?” The narrator holds conflicted feelings about their partner, wanting to see them suffocated in the first verse but then going into a neurotic self-questioning streak where they try to figure out if they are to blame for the fall of the relationship. Songs like these always make me a bit sad because they’re so heavy coming from one side of the relationship; it’s easy to feel sympathetic for the narrator, but I wonder what the other partner would say about the relationship.

When growing up, my mother had one of those motivational sort of posters in our bedroom which had a bird on it and read “If you love something, let it go. If it come back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, then it never was.” So my final question to you is, winged or chained, would you have stayed?


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