17 Oct 2014

Eagulls / live at Lennon's, Southampton

Being singlehandedly responsible for the greatest album of the past year or two, Eagulls are a band rising meteorically. As part of the Club Psychedelia birthday celebrations, the Leeds-based post-punks headlined a night at the nightclub and luckily it was 16+, as opposded to 18+.

Kicking off proceedings was a DJ set from a member of Southampton's greatest musical alumni, Band Of Skulls' bassist Emma Richardson. Upbeat and bursting with fantastic songs from the sixties until the present day, it was interesting to say the least. One minute The Seeds' Can't Seem To Make You Mine was blaring, the next it was New Dorp New York by SBTRKT.

The only support band was the hectic punks known as Bad Breeding; a four piece hailing from Stevenage. They had an air of Crass or Black Flag about them, but they also reminded me a bit of Iceage; the solo guitarist and the bassist created a huge amount of sound that just roared on and on, not stopping til it was time for the band to come off. The lead singer marauded around the venues floor, screaming the band's violent lyrics right in the faces of anyone unlucky enough to stand too close. Bad Breeding were tight, but out of control and pretty unsettling; which is probably how they set out to come across. Their sound was repetitive, but the way that the band really went for it meant their 30 minute support slot was interesting right until the end, when all the members collapsed in the middle of the stage.

The delay between Bad Breeding and Eagulls was painful; it was a good 45 minutes before the white noise Eagulls walked onto sounded and the five-piece band marched onto the small stage. With abstract projections blaring in the background, the band launched into their set without crowd interaction; the first song was unrecognisable, dissonant, and noisy. It wasn't bad, but it took a second to gauge what was going on. Through the dissonance of track 1, and it's loud trail of feedback emerged their second song, the new-waving Tough Luck, instantly redeeming the mediocrity of the set opener. Mitchell's northern howls of 'ter-flook, ter-flook, ter-flook' sounding every bit as great in a live setting as they do on record.

From there the set motored itself onwards. George Mitchell, being arguably the most enigmatic frontman of recent years adopted his trademark stance pretty sharpish; his tall thin figure jerkily belted out the lyrics to the early part of their set; the frightening Footsteps and the tortured Yellow Eyes. The band's cold sound and Mitchell's tetchy stage presence was incredibly reminiscent of a late Joy Division sound.

The set's first real peak came with the swarming Nerve Endings. Its menacing wall of sound and Mitchell's delivery created an unnerving atmosphere, but that's just the point in Eagulls' music. They, like Joy Div and Bauhaus before them make music to unnerve, and music to make the audience uncomfortable.

Unlike at End of the Road festival, they also unearthed material from 2012's EP. First Coffin showcased Eagulls ability to write a great pop song, then Moulting immediately followed it up with it's warped pre-Loveless MBV guitar tones. Although Eagulls' earlier self-titled LP was a huge step up from their debut EP, those two songs perfectly showcased how great the complete output of this band is.

The middle of the set saw the band thrash through all of their other album tracks; Opaque was surprisingly uplifting and Fester/Blister was tentative. The grizzly Hollow Visions; the newest single was the set's peak. It was when the band seemed the most together, and it was improved by an added middle sector, where George Mitchell's jerky stage presence muttered 'So cold, so cold' over the feedback, before Eagulls launched themselves back into Hollow Visions.

Penultimate Soulless Youth was glorious, but almost off-sounding. It's glorious on record production wasn't quite replicated in the nightclub setting, but the anthemic chorus carried it to it's rasping, vicious end.

To cap the set, Eagulls finished on a high. They couldn't leave the tiny stage to come back on for an encore, so some feedback hit hard after Soulless Youth and Eagulls broke into their usual set closer, Possessed. A fantastic set closer, Eagulls' bona fide pop song is certainly a the most danceable number on their set list, and probably the most upbeat. It's woozy guitars subsided and as the attacking final verse hit frantically, the Leeds' based band's set came to a timely, perfect end.

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A lot has been said about this band on this blog; they're pretty dead certs for our album of the year, and they can't do wrong. Catching them in a live setting just served as a means of enforcing the prowess of both the band and it's enigmatic frontman, and even though they sounded off in places, they certainly put on a fantastic show; maybe not quite as great as some of the bands that sound that great on record are capable of, but Eagulls were stunning.


(written by calum cashin)