It would be easy to assume that this Hull-based band arrived fully-formed, but their career has in fact been a slow burn that started in 2016 with a demo that singer and guitarist Ryan Smith recorded in his bedroom – hence, the name of what grew to become a full-band project. What they lack in vowels, bdrmm make up for in sheer enthusiasm, displayed across several early singles. Said enthusiasm got them signed to Sonic Cathedral, and exactly none of those singles are anywhere to be found on their debut album.
They were collected late last year on the If Not, When? EP – along with the new track ‘Shame’ that signposted the arrival of something greater – but that 6-track collection was a warm-up in comparison to their first full-length offering. By wiping the slate clean for the album, bdrmm had a chance to define themselves in earnest and not rely on earlier material as a crutch, something borne out by the fact that their debut is technically self-titled in a manner that says ‘at least for now, this is who we are and what we sound like’; and what they sound like should appeal to listeners who may be seeking something with a little more lightness of touch than straight-ahead shoegaze.
The quintet – completed by Smith’s brother Jordan on bass; Joe Vickers on guitar; Danny Hull on synths; and Luke Irvin on drums – have honed a sound that’s as comfortable dipping into space rock and psychedelia as it is the genre that their label specialises in. Instrumental opener ‘Momo’ delights in repetition, its melodies alternately dipping and soaring as it’s held together by the rhythm section. It quickly segues into ‘Push/Pull’, Irvin’s battering-ram drums eventually leading the song into a more typical structure. Smith’s lyrics are stark and unflinching as he sets out the main conceit of the record: a dissolving romantic relationship that leaves neither party unscathed amid failures to communicate and – as detailed by ‘Gush’ – a general feeling of unreadiness.
The album’s lead single ‘Is That What You Wanted to Hear’ taps into the band’s psychedelic side, Smith sounding listless and defeated in stark contrast to the song’s constant forward momentum. ‘A Reason to Celebrate’ offers one of the album’s most bittersweet moments, pitching into its refrain around the two-minute mark as Smith admits, “Well, it’s OK for you to walk away” as the music summons a storm around him, repeating that line over and over as though he needs convincing. By the sounds of it, he does: the album’s narrative later reaches a crescendo on the hook-heavy, uptempo ‘Happy’. “The years we lost have proved that the cost of loss can be worthy” he observes, deadpan and shrugging his shoulders. “I’m happy if you’re happy.”
Self-doubt persists, however; companion track ‘(Un)happy’ offers a more melancholic take on that bright melody, its cinematic sweep augmented by wailing guitars and, later, an indecipherable, fuzzed-out conversation that ties neatly back into the overarching lyrical theme. Immediately thereafter, ‘If…’ comes crashing in, the record’s most volatile moment. The turmoil in its lyrics is complemented by the dynamic scope of the quintet’s music as it builds to a ferocious, noise-soaked roar, and the tension that’s been running through much of the album up to this point is released in a statement of catharsis at its musical and emotional peak.
‘Forget the Credits’ slows things right down for Bedroom’s reflective finale, capturing the band’s sound at its most measured and bringing the album to a close with ellipses rather than a full stop and making the listener wonder where they can go from here. From the demo stage to the finished product, the record was in development for four years, so no doubt, the band have their minds set on the future; it certainly looks promising. A multifaceted record that demands to be listened to from start to finish, bdrmm’s opening statement charts their growth from solo project to a fully-fledged band on one of the year’s most replayable debuts – that enthusiasm of theirs is surely going to take them places.