On the cover of Eagulls’ self-titled debut full-length is a photo of the burned-out husk of a car sitting in a housing project in the band’s hometown of Leeds. It’s an appropriate image for a band whose debut single was called “Council Flat Blues,” and that’s not an act: Singer George Mitchell grew up with shady characters who haunted those projects, and one member of the band lived in one. The photo’s also fitting for the contents of Eagulls: fiery post-hardcore with a reckless spirit that promises everything could all unravel at any moment.
Eagulls recalls the similarly blistering self-titled debut by Canadian band Metz, only more melodic and with an expected, pronounced English influence. The rhythm section of drummer Henry Ruddel and bassist Tom Kelly has a Stephen Morris/Peter Hook kind of thing going on, and guitarists Mark “Goldy” Goldsworthy and Liam Matthews channel Kevin Shields in the washes of distortion on “Soulless Youth.” But it’s influence, not imitation: Eagulls don’t come off like copycats appropriating the sounds of their predecessors. The group’s five members all did time in hardcore bands, so Eagulls’ punk influence stays close to the surface, particularly on riff-heavy songs like “Footsteps,” “Fester/Blister,” and “Soulless Youth.”
Those songs make “Council Flat Blues”—not included here—sound downright mellow, but Eagulls lighten their approach on several tracks. Mitchell lowers his howl into something more sing-songy on the surprisingly poppy “Possessed.” (The band played it on its network television debut on Letterman.) A melodic guitar lead helps carry “Tough Luck” to similarly palatable place. The guitars step back in the verses of “Yellow Eyes” to create an airier atmosphere with the bass and drums. The songs are always barbed, but Eagulls never abandon those melodic elements.
These are songs that almost certainly take on extra ferocity in a live setting. Eagulls captures that intensity well, heralding one of England’s most promising new voices.