One of the great quests in rock music has been to try to bring together traditional guitar-drum-bass rock sounds with dance music. Some of the biggest bands in the world have made the attempt (most notably U2, who boldly attempted to bridge the gap between rock and electronica with Zooropa and Pop in the 1990s), but most have failed. At the end of the day, groups with rock elements are written off as dance artists (Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem) and rockers who dabble in dance are dismissed as overreaching.
Still, that doesn’t stop bands from trying, and lately a handful of groups have managed to score points with bold experiments. Bloc Party manage to both rock hard and be groove-friendly, and the Big Pink are currently splitting the difference between English pub rock, shoegaze and techno. The XX (who hail from London and went to the same school as the aforementioned Hot Chip) are a group who manage to combine jagged post-punk with genuinely groovy post-modern dance styles. But rather than try to be more rugged than the next group of students, the XX tend to err on the side of indie pop (check out the ethereal melodies of “VCR” and “Heart Skips a Beat” for proof). The group recently shifted from a quartet to a trio, as keyboardist Baria Qureshi left the band, citing exhaustion. But the other three members left — Jamie Smith, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim — are soldiering on, having toured with fellow buzzworthy acts Florence and the Machine and the Big Pink.
The XX are currently on tour in the United States with Friendly Fires, and while the live show is worth checking out, the real experience is in the dense, lovely production of the album.