When Leeds-based quartet Eagulls released their self-titled debut back in 2014, I'd just completed a three year degree in the city. During those three years it became increasingly obvious that, as far as cities go, Leeds wasn't enjoying the same sort kind of rejuvenation as its counterparts further down the M62, and that there was a general consensus of discontent. This feeling was something encapsulated perfectly on Eagulls' debut; a brooding aphorism that provided a voice to the disenchanted while depicting a city apparently resigned to its industrial roots.
Two years on, Eagulls are back with their highly anticipated follow-up 'Ullages'. Though similar to 'Eagulls' in some ways, it's also a very different album in others. Such differences are best understood by looking again at the city in which it was recorded, and more importantly the changes that have taken place there during those two years.
Where two years ago certain areas of Leeds city centre were run-down, shops lay boarded up and to let signs were prevalent, those same areas are now full of boutique businesses, craft beer bars and other such signs of gentrification. While there's arguments for and against the matter, you can't argue that it has brought a certain degree of optimism and in some cases even grandeur to the more deprived areas of the centre. It's this juxtaposition with which we can compare 'Ullages'; a record that showcases a band with one foot in the grit and gravel of their debut, and the other in the fast-moving current their city's caught in.
From the outset it's clear things are different; the drones are less industrial, the intensity and aggression has been swapped out in favour of an almost-narcotic serenity and the discontent replaced with a quiet optimism, something reflected in track titles like 'Heads or Tails', 'Euphoria' and 'Skipping'; all a far cry from 'Eagulls'' 'Tough Luck' and 'Soulless Youth'.
Such is the level of hope and optimism that's been introduced to their second record that the dissatisfaction is barely noticeable beneath the grandeur, the opulence and the bare-faced poppiness of some inclusions. This is by no means a bad thing. The suffocating walls of noise of the debut have been torn down, and in their absence Eagulls have been allowed to grow.
The comparisons to The Cure and Cocteau Twins will surely come in their droves. But 'Ullages' is not a nostalgic album. Quite the opposite. It's a record with its eyes firmly to the future; the future of the band, and the future of the city that spawned them. There's still a level of discontent that quietly rumbles along beneath the bass, but every cloud has a silver lining and it seems that Eagulls might have found theirs.
Words: Dave Beech
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