If Eagulls' self-titled debut album was the surging adrenaline of a young band funneling all their energies into their opening statement to the world then Ullages is the result of them pausing for breath, reflecting, pondering ‘where next' and then doing it all again, set on creating an altogether different record. Whilst their debut album was a juggernaut of a record, often moving at breakneck speed and intensity, it was also a deeply melodic one, one that underneath the heady fuzz and gushing charge of the guitars laid a band with just as many pop leanings as they had punk.
It's these moments that have been brought to the surface on the new record: dense, deeply textured explorations that recall the shimmering opulence of the Cocteau Twins and the ominous gloom of Disintegration/Pornography-era The Cure. It's a sound that represents what they feel was perhaps a misconception about their personality the first time around, "There was an idea around the release of the first album that we're these rowdy lads and we're not, we're just into making music.," says guitarist Mark Goldsworthy. "We just wanted to make music that had ups and downs, not one sort of beat, something different but that follows on from the first record. More dynamic, more thoughtful."
Such dynamism and thoughtfulness is instantaneously apparent on the album: on opening track "Heads or Tails" one might be temporarily fooled into thinking Smiths-era Johnny Marr had resurfaced to lend his melodic touch to the track but the song, much like the guts of the rest of the album, has a faint whiff of such timeless song structure but takes a new shape, unmistakably becoming the band's own. On "My Life in Rewind" the group allow ruminating bass-lines to power the underbelly of the song as luminous guitar lines dance afloat on top and powerful but restrained drums color the background.
It's on tracks such as this that the vocals themselves become another layer of melody, gliding within the song almost like another guitar track has been thrown into the mix. Whilst thunderous drums and heavy hammering bass may lead the opening to "Lemontrees," it's songs such as these that display the group's natural propensity for plucking out a melody as beautiful as it is gutsy from seemingly nowhere - it's a trait that can be found peppered throughout the entire record. "Euphoria," as the song title suggests, is a glorious injection of serotonin but it's delivered with a tact and deftness to it - whilst charging with a pumping, melodic euphoria to it, it too is draped in a seductive, almost lugubrious tone.
It's an exercise in texture and ultimately proof that if Eagulls wanted to make straight up, fist-pumping euphoric guitar music, they could do so with their eyes closed - on Ullages they are stretching, and reaching, for something much higher. The process of writing and recording the album involved long days and nights in their rehearsal space, which turned into long days and nights in a converted Catholic church with returning producer Matt Peel before the album was sent to London to be mixed by Craig Silvey (Portishead, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, R.E.M).
During a time in which so many young British bands seem obsessed with pretending they're from 1990's America, it's as refreshing as it is exhilarating to hear Eagulls' Ullages as they continue to forge a fierce and prominent British voice in the world of music. This record is every bit as dazzling as it's predecessor but it comes along with that most rare and treasured quality of being so in a way that feels simultaneously new whilst remaining in the existing character and tone of the band. Never has the term ‘sophomore slump' been kicked so mercilessly to death as by Eagulls on this album.