THE BEGINNING

The material from the Leeds band’s second LP is vastly different from their debut, but they still manage to marry them into a thrilling live show.

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Eagulls @ Oslo, London. 02/03/2016

The crowd surges forward as an ominous guitar squall screams out from the darkened stage. From a side door, Eagulls lead singer George Mitchell emerges. Clutching a beer and a bottle of water, he deftly steps over the cables and leads and takes his place behind the microphone. With his battered army coat and curtains flopped into his eyes, he looks more like one of the kids who used to smoke cigs at the far end of my school field than an aggressive punk singer.

Expecting them to launch into a set of urgent, thundering punk, Eagulls immediately confound me further as they start up their new single ‘Lemon Trees’. The combination of the acid house visuals projected against Olso’s back wall and Micthell’s rhythmic head-swaying conjures up faint echoes of the Stone Roses.

Then, like a boxer luring their opponent in, Eagulls sidestep into the old stuff. Even as the haze of ‘Lemon Trees’ starts to float away, it’s instantly replaced by the sharp snarl of ‘Tough Luck’. ‘Nerve Endings’ ‘Coffins’ and ‘Hollow Visions’ all follow in quick succession and as bright lights burn into the crowd, the space in front of the stage is quickly filled the silhouettes of slam dancers. It’s clear Eagulls are teetering on a creative tipping point. Here is a band who can be named after an in-joke, dress up like Peter Sutcliffe at a Halloween show and still manage to do razor sharp social commentary such as ‘Council Flat Blues’. With all these contradictions going on, it’s hard to tell where the five piece will head off to next.

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Compared to the self-titled debut however, new songs like ‘Life in Rewind’ have seen them set off on an almost pastoral path. The snarling post punk and observations are gone – replaced by meandering, head swaying indie rock mixing introspective lyrics with guitars awash with delay and fuzz effects. I have to agree with the girl standing behind me who likens them to an “undersea version of REM or the Smiths.” 

The band close with ‘Possessed’; the song that put them on the map on both sides of the Atlantic. As you’d expect, it gets a thunderous reception, with sweat-drenched kids pushing their way through the crowd to dance along down at the front.

It captures where Eagulls are at the moment; caught between the swaggering punk band they’ve known and more sonically adventurous pastures they’re moving into. Their new work is brave, lyrically challenging and accomplished, but it will no doubt draw a line between the band and some of their fans.

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