Considering the wave of success that Leeds based Eagulls have ridden following their 2014 self-titled debut album, it’s no surprise that anticipation for their second LP was high. In the two years between ‘Eagulls’ and new release ‘Ullages’, the post punk band have impressed David Letterman, collected an NME award and toured extensively. But if they’re fatigued from their exertions then it doesn’t show, instead we’re treated to a thoughtful, moody album that reworks the band’s sound in a style not dissimilar to the rearrangement of their name in its title.
The melodic guitars and moody synths that lead into the opening track ‘Heads or Tails’ immediately sets out this new style for the band. It’s no secret that Eagulls’ music is inspired by The Smiths, and this is hugely apparent here from the first track to the last, with Johnny Marr-esque riffs being supplemented by groovy bass lines and punctuated by loud yet sparse drumming – the album often smacks of ‘Strangeways Here We Come’. The comparison with the Smiths ends, though, with the often abrasive and shouty vocal performance of George Mitchell, a far cry from the nasal croon of Morrissey. Yet this isn’t a bad thing, Mitchell’s voice adds a touch of punk to what is definitely not a punk album, but it works splendidly to create an angsty, new wave style that represents a maturity compared to their much heavier first album.
As the record progresses, the tempo picks up to a speed more similar to that of their first record, with the bassline of ‘Skipping’ launching the album into its climax via lead single and one of the strongest songs, ‘Lemontrees’. The tempo drops again for the final song ‘White Lie Lullabies’, but the change of pace prior to this is proof of Eagulls’ ability to keep it as heavy as they did two years ago. With the range shown across this album and their first, the question of where this band could go next is a valid one.
‘Ullages’ isn’t without its flaws, with lyrics like ‘painting with tears from our eyes’ from ‘My Life in Rewind’ occasionally sounding twee and try hard. That being said, the album does deliver an interesting and sometimes candid message of cautious optimism, and with the band still in the formative stages of their career, they have time to work on this area. Nonetheless ‘Ullages’ is an improvement on what was a fairly accomplished debut, and the band deserve credit for switching up their style and venturing into territory that they haven’t really experimented with before. All in all, this album is strong throughout and a refreshing rediscovery of new wave and post punk style. The death knell for British guitar music is tolled almost constantly in the music press, but in ‘Ullages’ there are certainly signs of life.