In an open letter on their blog, Leeds based post-punks Eagulls chastised various, “beach bands” and music blogs for (let’s keep it PG), “pleasuring each other.” It was a cynically poetic middle finger, and offered a perfect preview of the attitude we should be expecting from this crew. The band followed this up with a very well received music video for their single, Nerve Endings, where a decomposing pig brain was given the spotlight. Whether these were all image cultivating stunts just to get some attention is irrelevant now, because this debut album proves the band has the talent and conviction to justify the hype.
Despite the predominantly paranoia-filled subject matter, there is confidence exuding from every sonic nook and cranny here. Echo chamber guitars backed by industrial sized drums and over-driven bass lines conjure an image of the fallout from a Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine H-Bomb. Their brand of punk-gaze is dissonant and melodic, controlled yet chaotic, and retains its spite-fueled passion all throughout its 10 tracks. Nerve Endings returns as the opening track here, and is a fitting introduction as it embodies the restrained aggression that categorizes the album. Dynamically, it shifts between simple chord strums and whirlwind swells with ease, while George Mitchell’s harrowing, “Can’t find my head,” chants perfectly set the mood for the confusion and distaste that follows.
Hollow Visions and Yellow Eyes utilize similar dynamic structures and dissonant chord swells. It isn’t until we arrive at Tough Luck that we get a different spin on the band’s sound. Though it doesn’t come close to any sort of traditional connection with the word “pop,” it is more of a bouncer than a mosher. The guitars are less aggressive and the group actually settles into a bit of a pocket. Even if it’s for only a fleeting moment, there’s more of a focus on melody and arrangement than there is on creating a wall of noise then trying to break it down. Possessed follows a similar tact by taking the tempo down a notch and opening up some space for Mitchell to cathartically howl about the voices in his head.
In the home stretch, Eagulls offer a few surprises to make sure they’re as in our faces as they were at the start. Fester/Blister starts off in familiar territory before an abrupt, more strict imperial march kicks you into line. There isn’t a similar musical passage on the rest of the album, which shows that these guys understand that sometimes less is more when you’re trying to raise eyebrows. Opaque is the least noisy track in the bunch. The catchy call-and-response vocals and straightforward groove create a high-energy punk moment that’s more Buzzcocks than Swans, but again this moment passes by like a call into the void. The album’s closer, Soulless Youth starts with an ever-intensifying siren sound before the band takes off into their horror-gaze drive. In its last moments, Eagulls finally stumbles and burns out, leaving only some light, disorienting feedback.
As a debut album, Eagulls proves that this band has tremendous potential. Though on paper it can appear that other similarly influenced bands have beaten them to the punch, these 10 songs make up a distinct body of work, and the confidence that Eagulls has exhibited will take their punk-gaze H-Bomb as far as they want it to fly.