Album Review: Max Bloom – Pedestrian

[Ultimate Blends; 2021]

You can’t really blame Max Bloom. He was singer and guitarist for the (at one point) beloved 90s throwback rock band Yuck, who were on the rise after their rollicking 2011 self-titled debut. His partner in crime, co-songwriter Daniel Blumberg, parted from the band in 2013, thus leaving Bloom to salvage something from it all. While the band strived forward and delivered some dependable dream pop – which went better with Bloom’s voice – the London band never quite rebounded from Blumberg’s absence.

It wasn’t a surprise then to find out that Yuck quietly disbanded earlier this year after only two more albums and an EP. Only five months on from the revelation of Yuck’s break-up, we are given Bloom’s new solo album, the aptly titled Pedestrian. Bloom explained in a press release that the album’s title comes from him seeing a sign that read ‘Pedestrian’ while running, “As pedestrians, we’re all trapped in our own individual worlds but when something cataclysmic happens, we’re all brought together.” The event in reference, one can only assume, is the pandemic.

Pedestrian holds true to its name: it’s very unimaginative, as evidenced by the opening title track. Bloom aims for relevance but finds himself backtracking to something that’s nowhere near his previous band’s sounds. It’s hard to even tell that this is the same guy who took the reigns of Yuck; Pedestrian suffers from some of Bloom’s weakest tendencies. He tosses in some fun brass instrumentation on “Pedestrian” but again, it’s a far cry from even Yuck’s last album, Stranger Things, from 2016.

The same year that Yuck delivered their debut, Real Estate followed up their sparkling 2009 debut with easily their most accomplished work to date, Days. Bloom takes inspiration from that on several cuts here, something that is unmistakable right from the start of “Palindrome”, which has all of the summery and lazy vibes that a song like “Green Aisles” contained, but with half the zeal. When he’s not emulating Real Estate, he’s blatantly fawning to the Ben Folds crowd in the off-beat “America”, with dull results, and even “The Weatherman” sounds like a carbon copy of some of Folds’ more pedestrian songs like “Landed”. These are two separate styles that did not need to come together unless one were desperately trying to get a spin at an Urban Outfitters.

The entire affair isn’t without its merits. Bloom can still bust out a reliable riff, and his hook writing comes naturally, as on highlight “Imposter Syndrome” where he toys with a simple melody and pairs it with a grander chorus later. He’s got the goods, but it seems he trying to deviate from what he’s been known for. Bloom’s guitar work for Yuck was impeccable; it’s a shame he barely utilizes it to that effect this go-round. Instead he gives us songs like “Under Green Skies”, a pale imitation of Radiohead’s “Reckoner”.

Bloom drew a lot of inspiration for Pedestrian by going on runs, a trend he just caught on to, which is at least more relevant than the version of indie pop he’s stuffed into the album. Pedestrian may have similar mechanics to Yuck’s highlights underneath, but it’s stripped that fuzzy distortion and slathered in a thick layer of schmaltz as a replacement. The end result is a struggle, one that’s scattershot due to it’s need to include now-ancient methods to survive.