Max Bloom’s 2020 debut Perfume focused mainly on its author’s painful breakup. One year and one more breakup later (this time of Bloom’s band Yuck), his sophomore LP Pedestrian arrives with a more hopeful, liberated attitude. Having moved on from some of his struggles, Bloom spends most of the new album looking outward through the prism of melancholia-coated optimism.
Inspired by Bloom’s walks through London during the pandemic, Pedestrian is a collection of lovely, albeit forgettable songs delivered by consistently calm vocals, and simple guitar and piano chords. It opens with a wistful title-track addressing the uncanny feeling of social disconnection. A specific flavour of loneliness inhabits megalopolises, where being surrounded by millions somehow only exacerbates one's sense of isolation. Bloom sings about how it takes a cataclysmic event, "something in the sky" to bring all these people together and force them to connect.
It is always a bold move to put the strongest song first, let alone the leading single, as it sets the bar for the rest of the record. In this case, none of the following tracks quite reach it, but some do try. One of the highlights is "Imposter Syndrome", a self-loathing anthem that could easily find a home in Bill Ryder-Jones's back catalog. The poignant "Under Green Skies'' could equally be about someone stuck inside their house or inside their own tortured mind. "I’m trapped in this cage against my will / Won’t you come and let me out, let me outside," Bloom pleads. It is probably about both.
Pedestrian awkwardly attempts to shift gears halfway through. In "America", Bloom confesses his love for the USA in the style of a hastily typed iPhone note. "Kansas City / Did you know it’s in Missouri? / Don’t forget it’s in Missouri," he states, making you wonder if it is an inside joke we are not let in on, or just a rhyme he thought was cool. He even takes time to dedicate a lighthearted song to the weatherman, one that could only be written in a year like 2020 when we all had the TV on for way too long.
All the optimism shatters on "How Can I Love You?" when Bloom bluntly brings up a line like "I blame my mother and my father for my anxiety / It’s not my fault that they were too fucking hard to please." Still, he quickly recuperates and signs off with "Cat On Your Lap", a song that sounds especially wholesome in context of Bloom's more depressing takes.
While Pedestrian is not the most remarkable album, it feels honest and comforting. It reminds us that progress is not linear, there will always be bad days and good days. As long as we take it easy and remember to find joy in everyday things, like good wine, a purring cat, or an entertaining meteorologist, we might get through just about any rough patch.