[27 January 2011]
Three tracks into Jimmy Edgar’s XXX had me thinking this sonic wunderkind had pulled off the ultimate 1980s break-dancing revival. That was the idea conjured by the music, complete with visions of B-boys and B-girls taking their moves to the street corners to do the kicks, the spins, and all manner of cool moves on their cardboard mats. The whole thing is a throwback to Breakin’ era dance jams—the computerized bleeps and blips, the forthright synthesizers pulsing through the speakers, the stamina it takes to keep up with the grooves, and the steely robotic voice work reminiscent of Paul Hardcastle’s “Sound Chaser”, Tom Browne’s “Rockin’ Radio”, and Midnight Star’s “No Parking on the Dance Floor”.
Edgar’s re-vision of the era works well enough for the first quarter of the 12-track (including bonus cut) LP, with “Turn You Inside Out” practically explaining what Janet Jackson’s electro-experiment “Feedback” might really have been trying to get at. The creepy whispered vocals here don’t do much good, though, not even at the album’s front end, and they teeter towards overbearing as the running time grows longer.
As a whole, XXX ambles by as a series of unfulfilled promises. The subject matter isn’t nearly as risqué as the album title might imply (though the title could refer to a Roman numeral, and not “triple X” material), nor does the song “Hot Raw Sex” live up to the connotations it conjures. Some of the music is colorful, but mostly it’s frenetic and hyperactive, a kinetic romp rather than a cerebral exercise. Lots of atmosphere filled with special effects can only hold one’s attention for so long. Sooner or later, you realize there’s no there there. A few compositions (“Rewind Stop That Beat”, “Physical Emotion”, “Midnite Fone Call”) simply sound unfinished. Competent ditties though they are, they sound like they are in need of fully-formed and fleshed-out singing verses, and at least adequate lyrics to contextualize the music. Without context, it’s just bare bones movement, a jangled mess that’s aimless and substantively compromised.