Walking into Fiddlers on Wednesday night brings a feeling of déjà vu. Around seven months ago Leeds punks Eagulls played the exact same venue, in similarly chilly weather. Fiddlers is not a venue that puts on a lot of bands like Eagulls; the fact they’re playing the venue again speaks volumes for how special their last time here was.
But a lot has changed since that cold March evening. We’ve gone through a summers worth of political turmoil; a genuinely unstable man with a terrible fake tan is near the most powerful office in the world; and, more importantly for this gig, Eagulls released their incredible sophomore album Ullages. The record’s blend of pummelling bass lines, Johnny Marr indebted guitar and yelped vocals felt like a natural progression for the band.
As the band take to the stage the feeling of déjà vu creeps back in. But something is not quite right, something’s missing. Last time the band came here as a five-piece and tonight they have been reduced to only four, with their second guitarist absent. Unfortunately, it shows. From the atmospheric bass of opener ‘Lemontrees’, the sound, so rich and full on the album, seems sparse and empty, not the usual wash of noise. It doesn’t seem to be entirely the bands fault; “The soundman is going to die tonight” singer George Mitchell mumbles between songs, possibly explaining the thinner sound.
The balance of material the band play though is faultless. The old material gets the crowd going, and the new songs slot in nicely, providing a change of pace and dynamic. But the lacklustre sound means it doesn’t pack the punch it should; it’s a shame as Ullages is arguably a more ambitious record, and songs like ‘Skipping’ deserve to sound as devastating live as they do on record.
Mitchell’s vocals don’t help matters either. The echo the drenches them, and coupled with his habit of rocking away from the mic every other syllable, it means every song sounds half complete and incomprehensible.
The band give it their all, the song selection is great, but something just doesn’t click for Eagulls. The choice to play the same venue a only months after their last show here means that it’s hard not to draw comparisons, and unfortunately the band don’t come off favourably when compared to their previous show. Whilst not terrible, sound problems hinder what could have been.
Watch ‘Skipping’ below.