Published on 1st February 2016
The Room – Beyond the Gates of Bedlam
The Room are a recent signing to the growing roster of Bad Elephant Music, repeated listens over the last few days would lead me to describe them as a solid rock band with elements of prog. Bedlam, for those of you that are unaware, was a notorious asylum for the mentally ill that operated in Kent during the Victorian era.
The Room’s own description includes a blend of Saga, It Bites and Magnum, catchy tunes and intriguing lyrics. I can’t really argue with that, but I would add to it strong musicianship with a lead vocalist reminiscent of Roger Chapman of Family, slightly bluesy with a hint of vibrato, even some of the phrasing is similar.
I would put a room divider on the album, splitting The Room into two separate areas. Tracks 1 to 5 are straight quality rock music; tracks 6 to 10 are the more challenging and progressive, culminating in Bedlam, a track with a layer of insanity akin to the long demolished asylum that reflects what Bedlam may have been like for the inmates but despite its strangeness, I like it. It makes a statement, and in a final track you can’t ask for much more.
But back to the beginning; Carrie, track 1, is a great scene setter, Martin Wilson’s voice delivering the lyrics with raw energy. It rocks along nicely and is the point where the reviewer starts saying “sounds like…”. I just listened the first few times, but other than the vocal comparison I just enjoyed. It says more than something for a band when the reviewer delays putting them through the spectral analysis. Full Circle holds to that familiar ground; driving rhythms, solid bass and guitars. The middle bridge is divine, like slightly grungy Genesis.
Somewhere is a bloke called Jack that the band know, and down the line he has upset them; well that’s my take on his portrayal as first a psychotic and then again in Bedlam as a deranged lunatic. Consequently in an attempt to avoid being character assassinated on the next album, I do genuinely get a kick out of this release. Live I can envisage that some stage theatrics may be involved. The aforementioned hooks are here, as they were in the first tracks, as I manically grip the steering wheel whilst grunting along to My Friend Jack (though I admit to singing about the “Greta Garbo home for wayward boys and girls” too – Manfred Mann, 1968). It has a nice prog intro that builds menacingly, which messes with my assertion that it is an album of two good halves, but I will stick with that.
For As Crazy As It Seems (okay, which one of you did psych 101?) madness and isolation from society appear to be the themes, or should I just keep taking the tablets? There is balance here, no instrument dominating over another, the keyboards in the right place, Andy Rowe’s bass where it should be, backing harmonies, a nice piano driven bridge before the guitar solo. Yes, despite all the insanity, everything in its place. Ballad like and with the slight vibrato I spoke off, but a sing along with the hooks. Some of the gravel has been removed for the vocal on this track and the tunes are capable of being quite anthemic.
I adore the Donovan like intro on The Book before the vocal harmonies, when the key change comes it reminds me of Slade’s Miles out to Sea, such is the strength of The Room’s melodies that they hold your attention. Is there indeed a beacon shining for me?
The masks that we wear, Masquerade is subtle. With some songs anything in excess of five minutes can have you looking for the skip button – not heard, not required – but I love the keyboards that drag my mind back to that big bible chapter named group and their two post Peter albums. Excellent.
Listening to new music is a voyage of discovery, this is very much an album of such and Splinter’s AOR leanings are not out of place. The Hunter opens with pounding drums from Chris York, before dropping back as the song takes over. Back in storyteller mode, a tale of persecution perhaps? More listens I think. There are lots of little solos in here, each one worthy of praise, and this sets things up nicely for the somehow appropriate Bedlam where poor misunderstood Jack, along with several others, seems to suffer.
When I was at college I attended our rag ball. Two acts, a band called Sassafras of whom I never did find any music to buy, and Screaming Lord Sutch who set fire to the stage. Bedlam reminds me of the sheer raw energy of that performance, so thanks.
At the slight risk of sounding like a Yorkshire caravan salesperson, some of which are no doubt used (shudder), open your wallet, let the moths fly free, and invest in The Room. A great introduction to a band I’m pretty certain will be incredible live.
01. Carrie (5:06)
02. Full Circle (5:36)
03. My Friend Jack (5:03)
04. As Crazy As It Seems (5:17)
05. She Smiles (7:54)
06. The Book (7:49)
07. Masquerade (7:19)
08. Splinter (6:39)
09. The Hunter (6:22)
10. Bedlam (4:56)
Total Time – 62:01
Steve Anderson – Guitars, Keyboards, Programming & Backing Vocals
Steve Checkley – Keyboards & Backing Vocals
Andy Rowe – Bass Guitar & Backing Vocals
Martin Wilson – Lead Vocals
Chris York – Drums, Percussion & Vocals
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Year of Release: 2015