Release Date: May 13, 2016
Record label: PTKF
Eagulls frontman George Mitchell has a bit of a bee in his bonnet. He's tired of people lugging the Leeds based 5-piece into the category of post-punk, or anything with a post prefix at all to be honest. I can sympathise to be honest; recently I saw The Strokes described as 'Post Garage Wave Revival'. Maybe this whole genre thing has gone a bit too far.
There was much to admire about Eagulls’ self-titled debut album. To attempt to put a new spin on the post-punk sound is always a daunting task, but the Leeds-based rockers undoubtedly made an impression with their angsty lyrics and relentless, lightning-fast riffs. Tracks such as Nerve Endings, Hollow Visions and Tough Luck were fierce and uncompromising, with the band rarely taking their foot off the accelerator.
First impressions suggest Eagulls view life as endlessly grim. The sleeve of their 2014 self-titled debut - a burnt out car in the middle of a grey-skied estate - was a self-explanatory pointer for their frustrated and distinctly British take on post-punk. ‘Ullages’ - an anagram of their name, and another stab at adding industrial edge - is a revelation, in that sense.
Two years is a long time in music. Just ask Eagulls. Having released their self-titled debut in the early part of 2014, they've spent the next couple of years regrouping and reassessing their wares. Having also changed management just before the first record came out, the ensuing period since has seen them change their sound somewhat too.
So angry and vitriolic was Eagulls’ 2014 self-titled debut that there was a temptation to head for Leeds, make them a cup of tea and suggest maybe they take up a nicer hobby. A reputation for offstage antics and lurid ‘open letters’ only increased the perception that here were a group of lads who need to, well, calm down a bit. In truth, while that debut did move at breakneck speed, it was driven by a sweetly melodic post-punk bent; a course Eagulls continue to steer in here.
The 2014 self-titled debut from Eagulls was a surprising bit of musical necromancy, so often attempted yet so rarely successful, in which a band attempts to conjure the long-suffering spirit of Ian Curtis and transplant it into a new, equally attractively melancholic body. What was so surprising about the Leeds natives’ attempt, of course, was that it actually worked. Eagulls was dark and throbbing, brooding but still catchy, moody and driving.
Leeds quintet Eagulls emerged in 2014 in a crescendo of shredding guitars, fast drum rhythms, and lyrics of anger and disillusionment. At times, Eagulls was equally terrifying and enthralling, and it brought recognition and success, both in their homeland and the U.S., with an appearance on Letterman being the highlight. This second album represents an expanding sound and growing ambitions (with varying degrees of success).
As torchbearers of the so-called post-punk revival, a trend-cum-indie-rock-subgenre now approaching 20 years of age, Eagulls typified what that label usually means on their 2014 self-titled debut: a young band that capitalizes on prominent basslines and sounds vaguely like Joy Division or the Cure. What redeemed their debut from nostalgic banality was its hefty, no-nonsense hooks, delivered in rapid succession. As its anagrammatic title suggests, their follow-up, Ullages, aims for what remains in the post-punk canon.
“Hollow Visions.” “Yellow Eyes.” “Tough Luck.” The song titles on Eagulls’ 2014 self-titled practically form a Friday Night Lights locker-room mantra for the sort of outcasts who spent their high-school years getting stuffed into lockers. And yet their hard-charging goth-punk anthems channeled disillusionment into a full-contact sport, with vocalist George Mitchell screaming himself hoarse as if leading a team downfield to annihilate an opponent. Now, after tearing up the turf on their debut, the Leeds band spend their second album trying to build mountains.
Abrasive indie warblers look on the dark side of Leeds life. If Kaiser Chiefs popularised the catchphrase ‘Everything’s Brilliant In Leeds’ in the 00s, Eagulls are out to reassert the city’s bleakness..
Eagulls' self-titled debut earned acclaim for the way the band blurred its punk edges with shoegaze-sized walls of sound. This fondness for atmosphere was the only hint of the radical makeover they undertake on Ullages, an anagram of the band's name that doubles as an alter ego: if Eagulls was indebted to the gritty side of post-punk, then this is the glossy, but just as gloomy, flip side. Though Eagulls were specifically inspired by the Cocteau Twins while making the album, Ullages' sonic cathedrals -- which were recorded in a converted Catholic church, natch -- evoke a host of dourly beautiful bands.
In theory, cleaning up their previously scuzzy guitar sound and stripping out the hardcore stylings ought to have made Eagulls’ post-punk songs more accessible. And yet, although that’s precisely what the Leeds five-piece have done on their second album, curiously they aren’t. There is undeniably a greater sophistication to their arrangements here and they still exude a sense of foreboding worthy of mid-1980s Cure, but having established a mood, their songs no longer seem to go anywhere interesting.
The sound of Ullages (an anagram of Eagulls’ name) is bigger and more expansive than the Leeds five-piece’s 2014 debut, but there are fewer catchy tunes. It lacks the urgency, or those moments on the edge of hysteria that were honed from playing the songs live. Instead, Eagulls have plunged headlong into the 80s angst-rock of the Cure and the Chameleons.
In 2014, Eagulls spat out their beautifully brutal self-titled album. The release is still a harrowing snapshot of what it’s like to be young in contemporary Britain - depressed, broke(n) and hopeless. Not a lot has changed since then (it can’t get much worse) but now they’re experimenting with optimism as an antidote to dissatisfaction. Ullages comes as a eulogy of not only Eagulls’ name, but also their sound - they utilise the same angst as their first album, but it’s shaken up into something different that’s still equally as affecting.
The month of May certainly didn't overwhelm Carl and I as much as last month did, but it was still chock-full with important releases to whet our appetites until the summer begins. Carl was also significantly more generous - though he's completely enamored by James Blake's winning streak, I ….