Yorkshire 5 piece Eagulls stormed into our consciousness in 2014 with their frenetic self-titled debut. In 2016, they have returned with a venture into post-punk and more withdrawn state of being.
Albums often begin with a statement of intent, The Stone Roses’ ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ or Oasis’ ‘Rock n Roll Star’ for example. Eagulls have done just that on 'Ullages' with ‘Heads or Tails’. From the first second, the darkness and struggle descend like a ceaseless thunderstorm. Despite the call to ‘take a stab in the dark tonight’, this opener will not leave you feeling positive about any gambles taken.
This new approach comes with varying results. ‘Psalms’ is a damming indictment of our grey political times (not the past fortnight obviously) but, it lacks the edge to drive home this point. Its fine, not bad, and that is its problem. It doesn’t have the destructiveness of The Horrors’ ‘Three Decades’ or the pop prowess of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’ to land a flush punch.
When Eagulls manage to clash cultural styles into their work, they elevate themselves above their influences. ‘Velvet’ is by far and away the standout exponent. The production is brooding and lurks dangerously in the background whilst, the guitars echo the dreamy jingle jangle of Real Estate.
Driving ‘Velvet’ to higher heights is the vocal work of George Mitchell. The Robert Smith comparisons will be made but, the pain and darkness oozing from him in this tale of Cupid’s demise is remarkable.
Furthermore, Mitchell has that rare ability to drive the melody through his singing. The narrative shifts from line to line, sometimes within a line, all because of Mitchell’s capacity to convey a whole songs emotion into just a couple of words.
Unfortunately, Mitchell’s vocals don’t always impact with the same force. When the Echo & The Bunnymen influences come into play on ‘Lemontrees’ and ‘Blume’, Mitchell’s delivery lacks that star quality which shone so brightly for Ian McCulloch. Musically though, these tracks are a solid addition to this branch of the rock family tree.
On the surface, ‘Ullages’ will not glow as much as its predecessor but, like so many records, after a few listens, it will permeate its way into your soul. The doom and gloom starts to become a more beautiful state of being.
The greatest thing about ‘Ullages’ though, is the creative leap from the debut. So many bands make a death defying punk debut, then they make another and no-one cares. Eagulls’ foray into a post-punk will give the band room to breathe despite the varying results. Also, if they ever return to the sound of their debut, it will mean that much more for those who go on a journey to that destination.