On Pixx’s sophomore record ‘Small Mercies’, we find the young Londoner taking an arthropodological direction; as if to observe humankind from a far and then recounting her observations over the sound of quirky electro-pop and manoeuvres closer to alt-rock and grunge. Whilst on the surface, the album maybe a body of work centred on love and its pendulum swing of emotions, thematically ‘Small Mercies’ is much more than that; it burrows deep into our behavioural traits, exposing all of our many idiosyncrasies.
Pixx, aka Hannah Rodgers’ sonic approach to ‘Small Mercies’ is a varied one; with significant portions of the record sounding like a collaboration between Outkast and Gorillaz or harking back to the rough ‘n’ ready days of grunge. At first, the LP plays out like a late 80s/early 90s mixtape but after a few spins, these disparate styles coalesce nicely. ‘Andean Condor’, the album’s opener, kicks things off with a bouncing set of drums and a throbbing bassline, that announces the Big Boi and Andre 3000’s influence, along with Damon Albarn’s animated endeavour. The first foray into insightful human conduct occurs via Rodgers’ androgynous purr “dance for me boy/give me a twirl/I want to get to know you/but I probably won’t love you” as if to observe the mating ritual of drunken flirtations. As ‘Andean Condor’s summery lollop comes to an end, it’s swiftly brushed aside by ‘Bitch’s gauzy rock, accompanied by vocals that now sound strung out and at the point of breaking. This lumbering slab of grunge growls with scorn as Pixx drawls “I know you very well/you get to be the bitch sometimes/take the hit/you’re full of shit”. These two tracks set the tone of ‘Small Mercies’ as if to declare that anything musical could happen. The record’s eponymous track burbles and bounds like a fruit machine powered by a sugar addiction, as synths fizz with a carbonated energy and beats thump at a frantic rate. ‘Funsize’ maintains the quirky pop approach but with matters stripped back to a spidery guitar line and a rubbery throb. A dark melancholy runs through the song, as Pixx’s voice comes almost emotionless, while announcing “I was born into a factory/everyone I saw was just like me” and the plaintive “I am lonely.” ‘Eruption 24’ slinks with a sultry Human League-esque shoulder shuffle while ‘Disgrace’ opts for jerky, fairground noises and a twisted carnival vibe, as a fraught Pixx states “we didn’t know what to say/we had nothing to confess that day.”
When not bobbing along to a synthetic bounce, ‘Small Mercies’ rock chops come out kicking and screaming; ‘Mary Magdalene’s slow grind feels like a song on the edge of a meltdown as it swerves through some of rock’s outer reaches, touching on grunge, surf and shoegaze. Pixx can he heard nonchalantly declaring “you were right when you said I was bad to the bone”. ‘Hysterical’ displays a soften metallic edge as it shimmers with a post-punk aloofness and then, ‘Blowfish’, the album’s closing track, strips everything back to a raw guitar, vocals and pitter-patter drums, as emotions become detached and ground down “I’m not angry/I’m just mad/I’m just sad” like someone who’s had enough of trying.
Quirky, confessional and a tad unpredictable, ‘Small Mercies’ is an exaggerated snapshot of everyday life and relationships but through a slightly cartoonish lens.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams