opinion byMATTHEW M. F. MILLER
At the recent NME Awards in Austin, five-piece Leeds rock outfit Eagulls took home the award for Best Music Video for “Nerve Endings”, the lead track from their self-titled debut full-length. Besting the visual muscle of Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, HAIM, Lily Allen and Pharell is no small feat, but this small video from this “small” band is dedicated to simplicity. In fact, it’s about as simple as videos get in this over-the-top era – a brain lying on the ground while a fuzzy overlay of the band rocks out in shadows and mystery.
It’s a fitting first take on the raw, pissed-at-the-world yet simple sound the Eagulls have perfected. Front man George Mitchel shout-sings a chorus of “My nerve endings, my nerve endings won’t die. Come find my head” as propulsive guitar riffs collide with manic drums. For a band that notoriously taunted “all of the beach bands sucking each others’ dicks”, it’s a defiant walk-the-walk statement that is carried throughout the album’s 10 hardcore tracks.
Eagulls comes four years after their debut EP, Songs of Prey, arrived in cassette form, a clever nod to the fact that everything about them sounds out of time. The sweat-inducing, head-bangable “Amber Veins” and “Yellow Eyes” are an arresting mix of 80s synth and pure punk. “Tough Luck” – the most melodic tune on the album – comes off like a less-brooding, angrier stepchild of The Smiths “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”. Influences are many and obvious, as threads of early U2, The Cure, The Clash and even The Pixies are threaded throughout the album. With such a powerful arsenal of influences, the band sounds extraordinarily confident and never aims too far from its strengths. Eagulls are a polished yet messy power quartet, rocking fast and furiously, and every song feels like a house on fire, growing in intensity, that is hell-bent on burning down the entire block.
As the album wears on, Eagulls begins to feel a little self-serious, and the inability to fully make out what exactly is pissing off Mitchel creates a slight distance between evangelist and disciple. Some non-punk listeners might have trouble connecting beyond track five as a result (but seriously, stick with it). Had the tone of the songs been a bit more varied, perhaps the most aggressive tracks would have packed even more in-your-face power – when everything comes across as an urgent, balls-to-the-wall call to arms, the overall impact is diminished. In fact, when Eagulls let you in closer, as on the sparkling “Possessed”, slowing the tempo down a half-notch and swathing the song in a spiraling, catchy guitar lick, the song feels fun-angry and, ultimately more relatable. A simple shift in tone ups the ante for it’s immediate successor, the eerie “Footsteps”, emboldening it with even more power than it holds on its own merit.
Imperfect as it might be, the album’s relentlessness is also it’s chief allure. In reality, Eagulls sounds more innovative than it probably is due to the world in which it arrives. For those who feel like too much music today is overproduced pop or shoegaze-y Bon Iver variations, this torrid breath of fresh air will beg to be listened to on repeat. Along with their contemporaries Metz and Parquet Courts, Eagulls have made angry a very happy thing indeed. It’s the perfect antidote for when you just can’t stomach Pharell’s “Happy” one more damn time. B