Eagulls are not a band to rest on their laurels and give their audience the music they expect. The dark, brooding post punk which characterised their first album was a way removed from the more hook-laden songs of their first EP, eschewing anthemic choruses (with some notable exceptions) for the angular, paranoid bursts of sound which had threatened on their opening salvo more than been pushed to the fore. Similarly, Ullages (an anagram of the band’s name, which is very slightly more adventurous than both the self-titled EP and self-titled full length) is a step further in the band’s evolution than the previous release. While some artists are content to find their furrow and plough it, Eagulls give the sense of a sound in continuous development.
Ullages is a lush soundscape of biting guitars, chugging, Joy Division-esque rhythm and singer George Mitchell’s unique voice, cut with just the right amount of darkness and heaviness to remind you of who you are listening too. The album chugs onwards, never getting out of second gear tempo-wise but never falling into sounding lazy or slow; something due, no doubt, to the force which lies behind every guitar stroke, every drum beat, every strangled note which is dragged from vocal chords like a hanged man to the gallows. The album is introduced by the hypnotic guitar riff of ‘Heads or Tails’, a song which brings to mind The Smiths - both bands’ sounds are undeniably birthed in the post-industrial north, so comparisons are bound to arise. This is no nostalgia project though; despite obvious ‘80s post punk and new wave influences having risen to the fore with this album, the band’s wide range of tastes still creep in.
‘My Life in Rewind’ might sound like the soundtrack to a first train comedown from Manchester to Leeds (in the best possible way), but the instrumental ‘Harpstrings’ sounds like something Ennio Morricone would compose if he’d ever had to write music for a scene in which a serial killer loses his mind on LSD in the desert. This morphs into the woozy tramadol melodies of ‘Velvet’ which, along with ‘Psalms’, holds an incredible amount of energy within an on-the-surface slowed down, reflective pace; a far cry from their earlier, higher velocity output. ‘Skipping’ in particular gives the impression of the rhythm section as a barely contained beast, with a bassline threatening to jump out of its time signature at any moment while guitar and vocal sounds float across the top.
‘Lemontrees’ would probably sound most at home on the EagullsLP due to its driving drum beat and bass lick, but with enough of the new sound they have grown into to have made a perfect choice to pre-hype the record. ‘Aisles’, one of the heavier songs guitar-wise, offers a lush background for Mitchell’s vocals, while closer ‘White Lie Lullabies’ flexes the band’s songwriting muscle – building as it does from lilting shoegaze to a heavy, brooding beast.
Ullages is a brilliant snapshot of a band in a restless state of flux, an ambitious move away from their earlier sound which still retains the nervous, twitchy energy which made them stand out in the first place. Get hold of a copy and embrace the darkness.