Date: 19th May 2016
Venue: Islington Assembly Hall, London
Main Support: TRAAMS
Following the success of their second LP release, ‘Ullages‘ (13 May 2016), the Leeds five-piece group set upon their international tour, hitting up Europe, the States and of course, London. The band has been likened to The Cure and The Smiths, these influences are apparent in Eagulls’ new album in the foundations, but they have gone on to expand these sounds, and explore a new, more down-to-earth place within their new release. I was at first curious and somewhat apprehensive of how this new material would do on the live stage, as this slow, angst-filled style can often deplete into dull and dreary moans when played live. And the verdict? Pleasantly surprised. And the Islington Assembly Hall was the perfect venue to host this sold-out showcase of 80s post-punk magic.
First support – 99 Watts
Rating – ★★☆☆☆
This opening one-man-band came onto the stage, revealing that he was Eagulls’ driver for their tour, and it was pleasant to see a part of the Eagulls family support them on this fine evening. His music was created as he stood alone, centre stage with nothing but his electric guitar and a loop-pedal, the face that he managed to create a sound so huge it filled the room and bounced off the walls is impressive.
His experimental guitar creations, with organic layers of spacey, psychadelic sounds were booming around the room and getting more and more daring as the set progressed. However, I’m not sure whether I was because I was too sober and far away from the drug-induced haze required to fully connect with the music, but____ is an acquired taste to say the least. This act would, once fully polished, be of good-value in a spacey prog-band with his creative experimentation with time signatures and pacing.
Main support – TRAAMS
Rating – ★★★★☆ (+ 1/2)
This three-piece group walked onto the stage very gingerly and unassuming, spreading an air of apprehension across the room before picking up their guitars and drum sticks. However, once they began, TRAAMS arrived hot and heavy onto the scene. The first noteworthy aspect that was simply unavoidable was the outstanding, seemingly never-ending power coming from guitarist and vocalist, Stu Hopkins. He jumped across the stage, hammering at the strings with such ferocity that just when you thought he had surely done enough, he just kept going, seemingly living purely off reverb and amp feedback.
The group had minimal crowd interaction, but enough connection was made through the tracks – their music spoke for itself in an explosion of raging social anxiety and angst. This was especially true for crowd favourites such as ‘Costner‘ which were centred around Stu’s guitar battering talents – and rightly so. The influences of, Sonic Youth and Wire were apparent throughout TRAAMS’ set, and front man Stu’s awkward and tantalising manoeuvrings around the stage while shouting into the mic were reminiscent of what Ian Curtis might be like if he were still around today. The highlight of the set had to be the youthful riot worthy tune ‘Succulent Thunder Anthem‘, with its almost sinister outbreak of energy and vocal tones reminiscent of early Joy Division material. TRAAMS ended their time on stage well, with their final track really showcasing their instrumental skills in what can only be described as an enduring feat of musical rage that just kept building before walking off the stage, sweat pouring off them with their guitars still bleeding reverb noise.
Their album ‘Modern Dancing‘ is out now, available in all the regular places.
Check out their website here
Headliners – Eagulls.
Rating – ★★★★☆
After a long wait, the band came on stage, led by vocalist George Mitchell suited in brown tweed (very 80s). As he took off his blazer, and started drinking from his accompanying bottle of red wine, the show began.
This band have grown significantly since their first self-titled album based on the gutting realities of being young in England today, and this was clear from their opening track, ‘Heads or Tails‘. They now know who they are, what their band identity is and now they’re just enjoying it with more risks and experimentation – the lyrics ‘let’s take a stab in the dark tonight’ sum this up perfectly. The influence of post-punk 80s icons such as Chameleons and The Cure are still alive within their music, but it’s clear from tonight’s performance that Eagulls have now moved into the somewhat dystopian future with their latest album ‘Ullages‘. The band released an all encompassing curtain across the crowd, which rose and fell as their songs ebbed and flowed with perfection taking us all on the same journey with them. This new album should not be criticised for having less catchy tunes, it should be admired for demonstrating the synergy in this band, between all five talented members. As Mitchell lowers the tone of the song, letting it fall if only for a second, the guitars suddenly unite with drummer, Henry Ruddel just in time to lift it all back up into a dreamy trance again.
Mitchell’s voice and lyrics juxtapose otherwise energetic and perhaps even uplifting instrumental music to bring a haunting melancholy undertone to the whole affair. Eagulls’ hypnotic preaching of a bleak, dystopian world is emphasised further by Mitchell’s flouncing movements around the stage, the words effortlessly bleeding out of him as he dances, mic lead in hand. This is something many thought only Morrissey could do with any success for some time, and yet here it is being done. Overall, its clear that this band of five from Leeds have grown from their first album pursuit, and are not going to end their strive to bring back the 80s in the form of simultaneously hopeful and dreading truths of the ugliness in our world.
Latest LP ‘Ullages‘ is out and available now, stream it here
(Feature image: instagram/poroustaurus)