Eagulls have been quite clever in naming their sophomore album Ullages; ullages is an anagram of Eagulls, it looks like a bad phonetic spelling of the word eulogies – which would be fitting given the record’s tone – and the definition of ullage, the amount by which the contents fall short of filling a container, is itself fitting with the album’s content. Sonically the Leeds quintet have shifted away from the boisterousness of their 2014 self-titled release applying their talents to crafting bleak, post-punk, atmospherics in a manner that the English seem to excel at – insert trite quip about their music matching their weather.
The Smiths and The Cure are two bands who Eagulls find themselves compared to and if, within thirty seconds of hitting play on Ullages, George Mitchell’s vocals don’t make you think of The Cure’s Robert Smith then you probably need to brush up on your canonical music. Opening track, Heads or Tails, stands as Ullages most impressive song, with Mark Goldsworthy and Liam Matthews providing solid guitars work while the song swells and takes the listen on a compelling journey. Euphoria, which opens with a dark and heavy intro has a tone that is positively dysphoric, and while the song shifts to a lively tempo the chorus doesn’t sit well in its surroundings and, for a track that runs to nearly five minutes, it all ends abruptly.
Leading into the album’s halfway point, Harpstrings offers a slightly trippy – courtesy of a well deployed flanger effect – sonic meditation which proves to be an extended intro for Velvet, a song which hooks the listener straight away with Henry Ruddel’s drum beat and Tom Kelly’s wallowing bass. Psalms is quite a dreary song, but one suspects that is mostly the point, and like Skipping it illustrates how Eagulls’ lyrical choices can leave a little too be desired if examined to closely. The martial drums of Aisles juxtaposes strongly with the rest of the music, and the opening guitar part for closing track White Lies Lullabies is so shiny that it almost seems like a piece of electro-pop.
Overall Ullages is a solid work of atmospherics, even if it is somewhat let down by lyrics that tend towards the clichéd with an earnest, emotional, delivery that many will find either off-putting or plain displeasing. Existing fans, or those that usual prefer more energetic music, might initially be suspicious of Eagulls’ shift in sound, but they should not be dissuaded as it is still the same band, still the same focus and intent; Ullages is just a development, an expansion in their artistry. Ullages isn’t perfect, but it certainly is worth giving a go.