Eagulls: London – live reviewEagulls
Kingston, Banquet Records shop London
30th September 2013
You know how it is, sometimes you’re in a packed hall surrounded by people who seem inexplicably convinced that the insipid, join-the-dots band onstage is in some way remarkable, and you wonder how so many music fans can get it so badly wrong.
And at other times you’re in a tiny venue with a few other jammy sods staring directly, and a bit uncomfortably, into the eyes of a band so brilliant that you struggle to understand why they’re not playing in front of large, adoring crowds, and you can’t quite believe your good fortune. This is one of those gigs. Eagulls, first mentioned on Louder Than War in 2011, are playing an in-store at Banquet Records, a buzzy South West London record shop stuffed with the latest tees and vinyl, the Leeds band squeezing into a tight space, directly in front of the counter and face-to-face with a lucky handful of grinning fans. Despite the slightly surreal rehearsal room atmosphere created by this setting, to their credit the five-piece are all heads down, instrument-thrashing intensity from the start.

They kick off with excellent new single Nerve Endings and power through a condensed set that hits overdrive during Coffin, Mark Goldsworthy and Liam Matthews unleashing sheets of jagged riffage that clang thrillingly against each other; one guitar is choppy and relentless, phased and distorted, the other punctuates the fizzing noise with brutal but melodic string slashes, all underpinned by Henry Ruddel’s tribal drumming and Tom Kelly’s insistent, low-tuned bass lines. It’s a claustrophobic, early-Pil-meets-Killing Joke dynamic, offset by tunes that lodge in your head.

The last time I saw this band, at last year’s Hackney Radfest, singer George Mitchell was mostly silent between songs, a brooding presence. Tonight, surrounded by the shop’s displays of alt rock goodies (including a display of Eagulls record sleeves), he’s noticeably less self-contained, but that surly charisma is still very much in evidence, even after he’s pocketed his shades. George’s slightly lairy, Liam-meets-Lydon aloofness is an instant visual hook, and crucially his rough and ready vocals are scorched with more than enough raw emotion to justify the swagger.

Tonight there’s no time for anthemic favourite Council Flat Blues, or classic slow burner Moulting, but set closer Possession is a propulsive, progressive punk pile up that keeps us gripped even after George’s microphone cuts out halfway through, causing him to abandon it with a smile and a shrug.

As the others thrash on regardless, you can only conclude that when Eagulls’ debut album arrives, hot on the heels of their next single – itself due later this year – it’s certain to be an incendiary treat, and one of 2014s most eagerly awaited musical highlights.

Eagulls website is here. They’re also on Facebook & Twitter.

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