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Album Review: Eagulls

Eagulls – Eagulls (Partisan Records, 3/4/2014)

Eagulls are a Leeds-based quintet whose debut album I’ve been looking forward to for some time, having enjoyed earlier tracks like “Council Flat Blues”.  The band is often given the “post-punk” tag, and it’s easy to hear why:  their songs bring to mind equal parts early Killing Joke, The Cure and The Chameleons.  There are also hints of the more adventurous side of new wave and of early 80s hardcore punk in the vocals.

While many bands these days, it seems, draw heavily from these same influences, Eagulls manage to blend these into something more than merely the sum of their illustrious parts and, on its eponymous debut album, the band has clearly refined its sound from earlier releases into a solid collection of songs.

The band seems to dip a toe or two in the water at first.  Opener “Nerve Endings”, begins with swirling guitars, paired with sturdy, sold bass and drums, finally joined by vocalist George Mitchell, sounding a bit like “Seventeen Seconds”-era Robert Smith.  While decent enough, it seems the aural equivalent of first few drinks in a pub crawl:  the intent is there, but the inhibitions have not yet been cast aside.

It’s during the excellent middle portion of the album that the band conjures the raw emotion and vitality of the full-on bender:  Mitchell trades his Smithian yelp for belfry-clearing shouts, which interplay wonderfully with the guitar work of Mark Goldsworthy and Liam Matthews.  On this run of tracks, beginning with “Tough Luck” and continuing on through “Opaque”, the music stumbles and lurches blearily through waves of dissonant melancholy – all shades of blue and black –  while kept on a (strained) leash by the excellent rhythm section of Tom Kelly (bass) and Henry Ruddel (drums).  Proceedings reach euphoric, drunken clarity on twin highlights “Possessed” and “Opaque” – the stuff of raucous sing-alongs, the kind which possibly (de?)evolve into fisticuffs.

All said, a very satisfying debut.  One complaint, however, is with the production, which bathes everything in something approaching cotton wool:  it seems, at times, as though the band were recorded from the next room.  While this does add to the already tense mood, it too often ends up blunting the impact.  I look forward to seeing the band – June 18 at Great Scott! – to hear the difference live.

Highlights include:  “Tough Luck”, “Amber Veins”, “Possessed”, “Opaque”.