Eagulls are one of the hottest names in British music, and rightly so. This fast-rising Leeds quintet have played on David Letterman’s TV programme, they’ve posed for photos with Bill Murray, they’ve cribbed the name of one of the highest-selling rock bands in history, and they’ve caused a bit of a stir as far as ‘punk’ music goes.
Although this self-titled work is their debut album, it’s their seventh release – their first was a tape, and a bunch of 7- and 12-inch releases later (including the riotous Council Flat Blues) they’ve become one of the most talked about ‘buzz’ bands of this year. That kind of pressure on new-ish bands can go one of two ways – The Drowners’ new record has been thoroughly dissected and deconstructed by critics, somewhat unfairly owing to the fact that their singer is a model. However, Spring Offensive’s new record has gained nothing but critical approval and outpourings of love.
Eagulls deal in the primal, aggressive punk music that these shores have been producing since its’ 76 heyday – although they’re clearly influenced by a variety of fierce punk and post-punk acts: just check out their cover of Killing Joke’s Requiem that was released on the 7-inch of Nerve Endings. They share many traits with Notting Hill’s finest, not least a working-class sensibility and a similarly furious sound – model-handsome singer George Mitchell’s throat-shredding vocal approach is undoubtedly similar to Jaz Coleman’s bilious bark at most points on the record too.
Nerve Endings kicks off this release – a compact, barrelling rhythm section anchor the spindly guitar riff and Mitchell’s insistent growling. It’s a terse, taut opening to the record, and the rollicking, boisterous appeal Eagulls have is instantly apparent – they have a high-energy, no-frills sound that’s undergoing a major renaissance in the Teenies (see also: Iceage, Perfect Pussy, Savages).
Hollow Visions has a surprisingly satisfying deathrock feel to it (are you hearing this, Mr Braaten?) – the pumping, thrusting bass and ripping, slashing guitar riffs are the same kind both Bauhaus and Christian Death used to deal in on classics like In The Flat Field and Only Theatre of Pain. The sound of the drums is almost painful to listen to – but not in a St Anger kinda way. The snare rattles your fillings loose – drummer Henry Ruddell hits the snare with no consideration for the amount of skins he’ll get through in his lifetime. Punk as fuck!
Yellow Eyes is back in Killing Joke territory, with a piercing lead guitar tone and pumping bottom end – while Tough Luck threatens to go into Misfits-zone when it begins in a bluster of tape hiss (We Are 138 uses that to great effect). If you expect Glenn Danzig’s Lizard King yowl to pollute your ears, you couldn’t be more wrong – the chorus shouts of “Touch wood, tough luck” have a curiously Scandinavian sound to them. Mitchell’s pronunciation of ‘luck’ as ‘luke’ is particularly bizarre, and very similar to Elias Bender Ronnenfelt’s wonky English tones. But the track itself is a turbo-charged number where Tom Kelly’s ringing bass evokes both Youth and Paul Simonon in equal gut-shaking measure.
The rest of the record is just as vital. Possessed’s gauzy shoegaze guitar howls and buzzes, as impactful here as it was live on Letterman; Fester/Blister’s white-hot intensity is due to the metallic crackle of the guitar and Mitchell’s most aggressive delivery. Opaque could be culled from Killing Joke’s angular guitar-pop efforts on Fire Dances – the swirling, choppy guitar and melodic bass are prime post-punk signifiers. Footsteps is the highlight here, though – growling Severin bass and goth-rock guitar jangles evoke The Scream and Join Hands. The ominous, airtight groove and howling vocal amount to the most potent track on the album.
It’s an uncompromising debut, and contains as much melody as brutality – even though they’d probably punch you for saying so. If you liked the Iceage album, pick this up with some urgency – the comparisons between the two acts are easily made and easily heard. That’s not to say that there aren’t original moments here, but their best moments are the ones they’ve picked up from listening to punk and post-punk icons and permutated into their own style.
It’s a great release by one of the UK’s most promising bands, and lays down a foundation for them to build on being melodious and aggressive. Most debuts by British punks haven’t really been indicative of where their sound will eventually settle: The Banshees got softer with time, while Killing Joke’s obsession with doom and gloom has produced some of the finest works of the past 10 years. Where Eagulls will go next isn’t clear, but you can bet your council flat on it being entertaining.