Published Jul 10, 2019On Pity Boy, New York musician Mal Blum opens up about the relentless frustration and stagnation they experienced during one of the most dissatisfying times in a young person's life: the entirety of their 20s. The album sees Blum abandon the tender lyrics and folk-punk sound from their 2015 release, You Look a Lot Like Me, and embrace a disgruntled, sometimes vindictive '90s pop punk vibe. The vindication is reserved for bad habits, selfish people, fear and self-hate — all of which just won't seem to go away.
At 38 minutes, this is a concise record, though a few songs could've been left off and not missed, like "Splinter" or "Gotta Go." The sound is uniform throughout, excluding slight pace alterations, so the most vulnerable moments become the standouts. "See Me" floats between subdued verses, discomfort growing on the bridge with a melancholic guitar riff, until Blum begins to repeat "Why can't they see me / Why can't they see me" leading into an energized chorus. "Well, Fuck" has Blum sounding bitter, drained and a bit playful, switching between saying "Fuck you" to a former lover, and "Fuck me" because of how exhausting the whole situation is. "Black Coffee" is a fitting but refreshing sound change, with simple strumming of the electric guitar, as Blum sings about the distress that comes from living life only to avoid change and pain, with a gut-punch line: "I forgot that I'm no better than I seem."
There's a crude honesty expressed throughout Pity Boy, with lyrics about stalking your ex online and getting mad that they're thriving without you, or wanting to be the unkind version of yourself to suppress a need to "fix" others — because that's not your job. Rather than placate listeners, Pity Boy tells its truth — the one that's the most immediately satisfying. (Don Giovanni)