THE GLOW OF TELEVISION
ZIP RECORDS Out now
Hmmm… I started out near enraptured by the genre-busting headbang funk that opens Xi’s (like the beginning of xylophone; not like Roman numeral eleven as I first thought) debut album. But it didn’t quite manage to go the distance. For the most part, The Glow of Television is a heavy-yet-catchy blend of plucky alterno rock, with big bass lines, pounding drums and dramatic, heartfelt blasts of vocal machismo. It also, at times, falls prey to samey-ness and occasionally lapses into bloated droning.
This is a solid effort, that threshes an interesting pathway between unpretentious prog rock and mature emo (if the latter is not oxymoronic). The vocals are heroically robust, the beats enthusiastic, the guitars wail, and the keyboard backdrops tower like monoliths. And fortunately, Xi manage to avoid the worst flabby clichés of the Donnington fields, which are the closest thing they have to a natural home. I was particularly enamoured by aforementioned opener ‘Silence’, the sharp beat of ‘My Dear’, and the lunging power of closer ‘I’m Trying’. I was less convinced by the grandiosity of ‘Faceless’ and the frantic fussiness underneath the crunching chords of ‘Under My Feet’. The strengths and weaknesses of the album are both epitomised in ‘Mantra’: it opens up with a Tin Pan Alley shuffle that builds into swaying funk but though the apocalyptic vocals impress throughout, the interesting opening inevitably tips over into baggy sweeps of Big Guitars that seem to expect to impress solely by dint of their largeness. Xi need to remember that just because something is big, it does not follow that it must therefore be interesting.
It’s a courageous effort on the whole, and for the most part successful. Xi are not quite as boundary-breaking as they might like to think, but their sound is just distinctive enough to be worth a listen. Not quite my cup of tea, but a robust album that commands a fair amount of respect.