From the gently lilting piano line that opens the title track of this second solo album from Max Bloom, it’s immediately obvious that we are not in Yuck land anymore. The London-based scuzz rock outfit burned bright during the 2010s, but with their split recently made official, it is clear that former frontman Bloom is in a very different place these days.
Indeed, ‘Pedestrian’ was conceived in the early stages of lockdown, when London-based Bloom was, like everyone else, becoming used to the same specific set of sights – namely, his own four walls and the areas around them. The resulting set of songs reflect the long periods of contemplation that his newly pedestrian lifestyle.
The title track’s lyrics can come across initially as trite (“People pushing left and right / but I don’t have time to stop and talk”), but just as many of us have become accustomed to the mundanity of the everyday being coloured by profound life-and-death thoughts, so these lines morph into much more existential statements almost without us noticing: “Are you afraid to die?”.
The track is couched in a delicate and inviting soft-rock padding, and while that tone is more or less maintained throughout the record, the cumulative effect veers from charming and inoffensive to something bordering on banal. ‘Palindromes’ is pretty with its trebly, Real Estate-like guitar ripples and ‘All the Same’ kicks off with squelchy synth keys that are just an echo effect away from the intro to a Paul McCartney Christmas hit, while ‘The Weatherman’ gets by on a motif of carefully tinkled piano keys.
Bloom may have in mind the classic American songwriting of Evan Dando or Todd Rundgren and, at times, as on the major earworm ‘Twenty-Two’ or the 1970s AOR melodies of ‘How Can I Love You’, this largely works. But equally there are more forgettable efforts such as ‘Imposter Syndrome’; its sun-kissed melancholy is evocative but the arrangement is bare, lacking the distinctive details that can elevate this form into something irresistible.
In the end, it is hard to know whether Bloom wants us to engage with the zen-like revelations that arose from being trapped in the thudding reality of one identical day following another, or whether he is inviting us to switch off our minds, relax and float downstream. The result is an album that has the capacity to do both, but never truly perfects either.
Release date: June 18
Record label: Ultimate Blends