Eagulls’ Latest is Part Uulagy, Part Ululation
Eagulls are no strangers to weaving together lush riffs and ambient textures to create evocative soundscapes, and their latest release, Ullages, shows them at the peak of their powers. Melancholic yet full of verve, Ullages pushes the sounds of The Smiths into uncharted territory.
The album begins with “Heads or Tails.” The heavily effected lead-in riff paves the way for George Mitchell’s croons. The song sets up the tones of the album well. Darkened riffs and jerky percussion provide a rich breeding ground for Mitchell’s vague but taut lyrics. The combination of individual elements in “Heads or Tails” makes for a song that is as intense as it is casual. There’s some seed of passion at the core of the song’s woolly sounds–what that seed is exactly seems to be just out of grasp.
And this quality, this clarity being just out of reach, extends from the first song into the whole album. Eagulls mix the best aspects of early 80s europop with elements of The Cure, The Smiths, and their own unique take on son structure to create an album that is rooted in the past as it looks to the future. No matter where/when the album draws inspiration, Eagulls manage to stitch it together with a cohesiveness that never bends into monotony.
Ullages hinges on “Velvet.” The slow burn exhibits much of the same formal arrangements as the songs before it–minimal lead lines and amorphous textures from the guitars, Mitchell’s reverb-warmed vocals, steady cymbal-punctuated drumming–; whereas the other tracks bleed a little light into their compositions “Velvet” is overwhelmingly dark. Even its climactic ending only highlights the ambiguous pain around which the song coils.
While The Smiths (thinking specifically of “How Soon Is Now“) peek through Ullages as a major influence, Eagulls push what this quintessential band did into a new realm. Eschewing literary distance for more visceral, emotionally engaging croons, the band has found a way to make melancholy fashionable again.
And no where is melancholy more fashionable than on the album’s final track, “White Lie Lullabies.” With more shimmering guitars and light-footed vocals, the song juxtaposes its verses with the steady plod of its bridge-chorus. “White Lie Lullabies” acts as the anchor to the entire album. Lyrically, the song makes concrete the pain that has been, up to this point, lost in the aural haze. When Mitchell howls “I look as tired as you when you are as tired as me,” he slurs the phrase to sound like “I look as tired as you when you are tired of me,” and the amorphous melancholy that has governed the album shifts into focus for a moment before flitting back into its blur again.
Ullages marks a maturing of Eagulls. The album is complex, layered, and evocative–lyrically and musically. It is perfect for any fan of The Smiths, The Cure or anyone who has some unknowable dissatisfaction with their lives or anyone who wants to listen to vinyl and bob along to the beat while thinking about all their regrets. In other words, Ullages is an album for fans of music.