Album review: The XCERTS – Learning How To Live And Let Go

The XCERTS drop everything else to rediscover the exuberance and experimentation of early youth on infectious fifth album…

Album review: The XCERTS – Learning How To Live And Let Go
Sam Law

When Murray Macleod and Jordan Smith first formed The XCERTS as passionate 13-year-olds striking out just after the turn of the millennium, they surely gave little thought to where they’d be two decades down the line. In fact, the Aberdeen lads have never felt like looking too far ahead, preferring to seize the spark that got them started rather than reaching too hard for milestones ahead. Five years after anthemic fourth album Hold On To Your Heart cracked the UK Top 40 and signposted a route to stardom, they’ve chosen to do just that: rekindling a youthful naïveté rather than cynically plotting a route up the ladder.

The 100-second lead single GIMME hinted at a thumping, fuzzed-up swerve into alt. pop territory, but they’re not long in proving that their longingly romantic pulse is still just beneath the skin. Car Crash Culture layers subtle electronics and flecks of pop-punky production over a classic XCERTS composition. Jealousy sees the trio (completed by drummer Tom Heron) toying with the same kind of steroidal post-grunge Dinosaur Pile-Up did on Celebrity Mansions. Ache (featuring Architects frontman and Murray’s best mate Sam Carter) experiments with blaring post-punky synths but overflows with unbridled playfulness.

And so we go. Acoustic ballad Everything I Cannot Live Without boasts big Aberdeen 1987 vibes, just with 15 years more bittersweetness slipped between its fragile chords. There’s a knowing swagger about poppy highlight Lovesick that seems to revel in that euphoric butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling while wryly wearing the emotional scars it so often pre-empts. Lust In Translation loads up a drum & bass breakbeat with as much angst as it can handle. My Friends Forever uses a gorgeously slow, jazzy composition as a vehicle for memories of ‘the way you had my back when I started a scrap with a stranger’ and ‘the bar we used to go to that’s haunted with the memory of someone I want to forget.’

Like the very youth it seems to be chronicling, Learning How To Live And Let Go flies by in a blur, blindsiding with the contemplative poignancy of arms-round-shoulders closer It Ain’t Easy. It’s proof that as much as we all need to grow up someday, that’s no reason to let go. And that, no matter where they head from here, The XCERTS are one of the defining Britrock outfits of their generation.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Twin Atlantic, Jimmy Eat World, Dinosaur Pile-Up

Learning How To Live And Let Go is released on August 18 via UNFD

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