Eagulls: Ullages

WillIam Sutton

Indie quintet follows up surprise success of debut album with the ambitious Ullages, but still struggle to find much to be positive about.



Label: Partisan
Release Date: 2016-05-13

Leeds quintet Eagulls emerged in 2014 in a crescendo of shredding guitars, fast drum rhythms, and lyrics of anger and disillusionment. At times, Eagulls was equally terrifying and enthralling, and it brought recognition and success, both in their homeland and the U.S., with an appearance on Letterman being the highlight. This second album represents an expanding sound and growing ambitions (with varying degrees of success).

At the turn of the decade, indie rock in the UK had suffered a slow and painful decline following the high point of the mid-noughties, where any group of lads with guitars and a drum kit could seemingly get signed. Since then, the music industry has evolved and the place for indie seemed to be shrinking. There have of course been some exceptions, and very good exceptions, to that rule, such as Foals and Maccabees and the Vaccines. However, on the whole the trend has been decline, with the transition of NME to a weekly freebie symbolic of this. The last few years however have shown signs of a resurgence, with shoots of talent breaking the surface, including Eagulls, Wolf Alice, and Circa Waves.

The first album was a bundle of virulent anger and angst-driven lyrics that condemned society and people and reflected the disillusionment and hopelessness of youth. The band captured and bottled the feelings of youth in a way so thrilling that it arguably hadn’t been chronicled in such a way since the debut Arctic Monkeys album. It was also very much a British album, so whilst sonically similar to US indie bands such as Wavves and Cloud Nothings, it had something different that set the band apart. As a whole, though, the album sagged in places as the one-dimensional sound and lead singer’s throaty delivery became a little monotonous.

On creating the follow up, Ullages, the band doesn’t appear to have suffered under the weight of expectation that success brings. Instead, they have challenged themselves to expand their horizons and look for new challenges, but the album still suffers from some of the same pitfalls as its predecessor.

Opener “Heads or Tails” shows the evolution in sound, sounding less ‘70s punk or ‘90s alt and more ‘80s angst. Lead singer George Mitchell has even mastered his best Robert Smith impersonation as he sings over guitars drenched in reverb. Lyrical content remains dour but less angry and more dejected in general. Regret takes over tracks such as “Life in Rewind”. "Psalms", for example, beings with “Is our future grey as the slabs on our drives / Our fortune and fame hidden between our thin lines”, and it later bemoans hand-me-downs and the lack of work in society that are “signs of the times”. Much like on Eagulls, the vocal performance here can wear eventually, but this is a much more controlled performance. Lyrically, there is also much more to celebrate; in particular, on tracks such as “Lemontrees” and closer “White Lie Lullabies”.

Stylistically, there is some variety, with mid-album tracks “Blume” and “Skipping” lifting the tempo slightly. There are also little flickers of hope as Mitchell hopes to see “dead roses bloom”, but these are scant. “Skipping” is the closest the album comes to its predecessor and continues the sense of alienation as the singer asks questions that no one can answer, like “How much longer I can play?”

It is a shame some of the anger and drive of the first album has been lost on this one, but as the band evolves that youthful angst couldn’t be sustained forever and this album has shown an openness to evolution, whether that is to everyone’s preference or not. It doesn’t sound as fresh and exciting as the debut, but the changes made work for the most part and continue to demonstrate the band's potential to be a prominent feature in British indie for years to come.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.