Mirroring situations like you’re an imitation
Do I watch and repeat?
And as if I tried to, I turned out just like you
Do we watch and repeat? They all say I will become a replica
Your mistakes were only chemical
Can we ever really break free from our past? Will our parents’ mistakes always haunt us? Will the struggle between fate and agency ever turn into something, you know, sexy? The xx’s “Replica” is a look at these infinite questions through a cracked mirror. The song stars Oliver Sim, who has dealt with issues involving alcohol and personal accountability over the last few years. When he asks, “Do I chase the night or does the night chase me?” he’s yearning for an answer he’ll never get. But that doesn’t make the search futile. Confidence comes with the ask.
Plus, he’s got friends to back him up. Romy Madley-Croft’s comforting coos and neon guitar accompany Sim’s own loping bassline; Jamie Smith offers to escape via tropical accents, as a cyclical figure, like a screwed-down sample of the “Knight Rider” theme, churns in the background. The teamwork is key because “Replica” also works as meta-commentary on the state of the xx—when Sim sings “Feels like the song’s already been sung,” he could also be alluding to the trials of a young band maintaining their identity on a third album while avoiding stale repetition. The neuroses lead to an apt breakthrough: “Replica” is very much an xx song, and yet it doesn’t sound quite like any other xx song.