The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

REVIEW: BDRMM – ‘Bedroom’ (Sonic Cathedral)


In a sentence:

While its highlights are truly tremendous, BDRMM’s semi-eponymous debut ‘Bedroom’ is very front-heavy, becoming bogged down in monotony.

Less than one year after the release of their promising EP If Not, When?, Hull/Leeds-based shoegaze outfit BDRMM finally break through with their first stab at a full-length studio album, entitled (somewhat eponymously) Bedroom. Gaining recognition for their mixture of up-tempo indie-rock numbers and dream pop-infused slow jams, all the while maintaining an ethereal backdrop of high-reverb guitars and vocals as demonstrated by shoegaze pioneers such as My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, the ultimate test would now be whether BDRMM could maintain such engaging material, of which there were numerous flashes on the aforementioned EP, across the length of an entire album.

Bedroom kicks off with a bang, with opening instrumental ‘Momo’ very much continuing from where If Not, When? left off, with its trademark high-reverb guitars and pristine production. Combined with the warm bass textures and shimming ride cymbal in the chorus section, these guitars ultimately create a rich, colourful atmosphere that sets the tone for the rest of the album perfectly.

This high-quality material continues with ‘Push / Pull’, yet despite the instrumentation and production not differing a great deal from the opener, its tone could not be more different. While ‘Momo’ was set in a major key, and consequently felt like a breath of fresh air and a soothing release of tension, ‘Push / Pull’ is in a minor key, piling on a whole new heap of tension to unsettle the listener. Ryan Smith’s dreamy vocals succeed in producing a ghostly vibe that only further contributes to this tense ambience.

This is followed by the second of the two singles preceding the album’s release, namely ‘A Reason To Celebrate’, and it genuinely lives up to its namesake, as here is where we get the strongest taste of classic shoegaze. The contrast between the distorted guitars and the soft, falsetto vocals transport the listener right back to 1991 and My Bloody Valentine’s ground-breaking Loveless, with the guitar feedback motif undoubtedly carrying echoes of ‘Only Shallow’ or ‘I Only Said’. The track subsequently embarks on a triumphant extended outro section, driven by the memorable chorus refrain “Well it’s okay for you to walk away”, which brings to a close a fantastic opening trio of songs that surely constitutes the crown jewel of BDRMM’s short discography thus far.

Unfortunately, the band spend the rest of the album playing catch-up with this excellent opening trio and struggling in the process. ‘Gush’ exhibits some very pleasing melodic guitar lines, but is otherwise a relatively linear piece of music, barely straying from the same three-chord progression from which it began, before falling into the all-too-familiar trap of masking a scarcity of musical ideas behind a crescendo.

Nevertheless, lead single ‘Happy’ gets a pass for its heavily Cure-inspired guitar riffs and post-punk rhythm section. Despite the absence of a discernible chorus, or any real character to the vocal delivery at all, Joe Vickers’ lead guitar melodies once again come to the rescue. For any fellow music theory nerds out there, these melodies make great use of the Lydian mode, which is proven to be the brightest, and consequently the “happiest”, mode of the major scale. Very suitable, given the song title. Whether this was an intentional artistic move on the band’s part or simply pure coincidence, it is nonetheless worth a mention.

The second half of Bedroom marks a significant downward shift in tempo, as well as memorability. Placing ‘(The Silence)’ and ‘(Un)Happy’ beside each other in the track listing was probably not the finest move, as neither contribute anything of note to the overall product and just end up creating a six-minute lull in proceedings, within which many listeners may have either zoned out or turned off completely.

‘If….’ may temporarily recapture the listener’s attention, with its explosive drums and distorted guitars, but honestly has little else working in its favour, its downfall largely being the result of its relative lack of energy and its sheer monotony. The final two tracks, ‘Is That What You Wanted To Hear?’ and ‘Forget The Credits’, end the album on an equally sluggish note. This brings to the forefront one major contrast between Bedroom and its preceding EP, namely the dip in quality of the band’s slow jams. For example, none of these final three tracks come close to reaching the emotional heights of ‘The Way I Want’. A disappointing end, after the first half showed so much promise.

Music video for ‘Is That What You Wanted To Hear?’

And that’s the overall verdict of this album: it’s a top-heavy affair. The more up-tempo first half demonstrates the band’s growth as songwriters, as well as Joe Vickers’ ability to craft intriguing, melodious guitar lines, even when the accompaniment leaves a lot to be desired. However, the second half is somewhat of a backwards step. Perhaps BDRMM intended to close their album on a more elusive note after the highly instantaneous first half, but this imbalance is much too stark to be enjoyable. Nevertheless, Bedroom is a worthwhile effort from a band that clearly have the chops to produce top-quality music and will hopefully continue to do so on a more consistent basis with subsequent releases. (6/10) (George McKenna)

Listen to Bedroom by BDRMM here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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