The xx’s newest music video, based on their upcoming album’s first single, “On Hold,” begins with an introduction to the small town of Marfa, Texas. The first 20 seconds of the video features no music, only a brief succession of images: a lone, flashy tassel waving forlornly in the wind as it droops from a telephone pole, a typical suburban home made complete with its pristine white front porch, a boy wearing a cowboy hat leaning idly against the hood of a retro car.
Suburban, desolate and unobtrusive, you immediately get the sense that Marfa, Texas is the type of town that seems to exist in its own isolated bubble; time is warped, and days pass by in a haze of hot blue sky and bad decisions made by bored teenagers.
The video is simple in essence. It briefly follows the lives of a group of high school students, showing glimpses into their private lives. It’s a video made up of a progression of fleeting moments in time; after-school cheer practices, hot & heavy shower hookups and lounging at local diners all culminate to form what could almost be a glossy American Apparel ad.
It could almost be, but fortunately, “On Hold” is careful to never reach that level of artificiality. It avoids the minefield through intertwining moments of humanity with the more heavily stylized aspects. For example, the dreaded cliché of the perfect cheerleader waving her pom-poms around on a football field is lessened through the addition of messy, yet wonderfully natural, black and white shots of a party teeming with beautifully imperfect kids. The majority of the rest of the video passes in a similar manner: a chaotic back-and-forth between the overly synthetic and the humanely natural.
Overall, the music video for “On Hold” is choppy, hectic and a little confusing (much like the lives of most high school teenagers), but it’s never overwhelming. A feat that has to do in part with the simplicity of the actual song: the combined soothing vocals of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim add a gossamer layer of tranquility to what is already a relatively minimal background beat. The xx strip their songs down to bare bones, invoking a clean sophistication that, in the case of “On Hold,” works in their favor, allowing the corresponding music video to not become obstructive in its clutter and disarray.
Although at times pushing the boundaries of superficiality, the exclamations of endearing, emotive sincerity found in The xx’s novel music video portrays that an infinite charm can sometimes be found in the classic tale of naive youth living in suburban paradise.