Alex Nelson delivers his verdict on the rockers’ show at Norwich Arts Centre, as part of their ongoing UK tour
Eagulls self-titled debut album came out in 2014, and though that effort was good – really good in fact – new ground was left disappointingly unbroken among the shouty, working-class punk.
After a rambunctious period that took in arena shows supporting the Manic Street Preachers and a thoroughly unexpected appearance on David Letterman’s primetime staple of a late night US talk show, the band went fairly dark.
We’re talking purely on a level of activity, not musically (more on that in a bit), with only a handful of live shows towards the end of that first album’s promotional run featuring new tracks, and a drip-feed of Instagram posts of the group demoing new material.
But this year they burst back on to the scene with tracks like ‘Lemontrees’; songs clutching their Cure records under their arms so tightly it’ll take weeks to remove the vinyl fragments.
Such songs hinted at a breezier side of the band, whose brooding post-punk had a tendency to flip into violent episodes of California hardcore at a moment’s notice.
It’s a sprightly aspect that’s wholly apparent in East Anglia tonight too, as singer George Mitchell actually BREAKS A SMILE between bouts of his swaggering singing style.
It’d probably be hard not to grin at the sight of a well attended Norwich Arts Centre going absolutely bat shit to your band’s every move, and even new cuts from upcoming sophomore Ullages receive a raucous reaction – with some considered chin-stroking towards the back of the room, too.
Those new tracks add a whimsical new romanticism to the band’s usual clattering post-punk, and a new sound indebted to the 80s recalls the sulking pop of Tears For Fears on ‘Lemontrees’, surely one of the group’s best.
The first album cuts still come thick and fast however, and still pack an almighty wallop. ‘Nerve Endings’ comes on like a Joy Division actively trying to give Ian Curtis a seizure, ‘Possessed’ brings in a shoegaze bend for a heartily overwhelming experience, and the awkward rhythms of ‘Tough Luck’ batter you about until your surroundings become a mystery.
While Eagulls’ debut was a stonker of a record, its 10 tracks beat the same path to an almost weary extent. A new – dare we say “mature”? – sound for their second keeps things interesting, and allows the band a new level of dynamism that’s expertly played with tonight.
If their debut saw them popping up on Letterman, then Ullages – presumably full of tracks reflecting a new musical sophistication – should see Eagulls’ star rise even further.
Catch Eagulls on tour:
March 10: Oddfellows Club, Leicester
March 11: Islington Mill, Salford
May 13: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
May 16: Stereo, Glasgow
May 19: Islington Assembly Hall, London
Main image via Getty