I was watching old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my girlfriend the other night, and I casually asked her which of the two primary, brooding Buffy hunks do I remind her most of: Angel or Spike? Am I a dangerous rebel like Spike? Or a sensitive yet tortured dreamboat like Angel? Peels of shrieking laughter issued forth from my girlfriend’s mouth. High-pitched, uncontrolled “tee-hee-hees” of mirth echoed through her apartment, with no attempt to spare my feelings or soften her own amusement. “Oh Honey…” she finally replied after she had begun to compose herself, “I think we both know you are Xander Harris.” And, of course, I knew in my heart that she was right. But what does this mean for the poor, unfortunate soul who has never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer? How can she approach the musician Xander Harris with some sense of what his moniker might signify?
First and foremost, Xander Harris is a dork. He is charming, funny, even adorable, but unquestionably dorky. For the musician Xander Harris, this means he really, really likes horror movie soundtracks and Tangerine Dream. The creepy, misty, atmospheric synth-scapes with dance inclinations that are pretty much Xander Harris’ bread and butter are nothing that we have not heard many times before on zillions of VHS tapes rented for a buck a piece from the horror section of your local mom-and-pop video store before they finally shut their doors for good sometime around 2004 or so. The question is: how much do you enjoy old John Carpenter soundtracks and Tangerine Dream’s Stratosphere album? My answer to this question is: plenty, keep it coming. But not everyone feels this way, oddly enough. If your idea of a good time does not include a rainy afternoon rereading old Stephen King novels and listening to spooky, spacey synth music, then Xander Harris may not be for you, as difficult as this perspective is for me to relate to.
Xander Harris’ new offering, The New Dark Age of Love, does not sound much different from any of Xander Harris’ previous offerings, but I would have been surprised and disappointed had it been any other way. I do not come to a Xander Harris record for striking originality or groundbreaking feats of experimentalism. I come to a Xander Harris record when I want to spend the afternoon playing Super Metroid or reading my favorite stories from Night Shift or Nightmares and Dreamscapes. This is what Xander Harris is for, and anyone considering picking up a copy of The New Dark Age of Love should know that right from the get-go. In the Buffyverse Xander Harris has been knocked unconscious, abducted, and generally slapped around more than just about any other character, but he has bravery and pluck and is one of the most beloved characters in Buffy.
Xander Harris is not a cool, hunky, sex symbol like Angel or Spike, nor is the musician Xander Harris likely to fill any stadiums like Skrillex or Diplo or whatever hip new electronic producer teenagers like these days, but if you catch his references and appreciate his special charms, he will work his way into your heart. Will groups of 30- and 40-something guys spend hours playing Dungeons & Dragons together and listening to this stuff? I think I can comfortably answer: you bet. Will this stuff ever set dance floors on Ibiza or at the Electric Daisy Carnival alight? Probably not, but so what? Xander Harris is who he is, and I for one appreciate that.