Eagulls With Twin Peaks and Sealion Three Links, Dallas Friday, May 23, 2014
For any band who's accustomed to playing extremely large venues, it can be a test to see how well they perform when they step down to a much smaller stage. Eagulls, a five-piece from Leeds, have played with titans like Franz Ferdinand, Manic Street Preachers and Suede in their home turf. Yet their first headlining run through America has brought them to small bars and clubs, including the great Three Links on Elm Street.
With only a full-length, an EP, and a few singles in their catalog, it was no surprise Eagulls' set was only 45 minutes in length with 11 songs. Rocky IV was running on the TVs above the bar, and coincidentally, the band's set finished as Ivan Drago went down for the final count. The crowd had gathered up in front to give Eagulls some warm Dallas love. Preceded by Twin Peaks' (of Chicago's) sunny garage stomp and (Dallas' own) Sealion's surfy post-punk, the room was happy, dancing and pretty toasted.
But when Eagulls hit the stage, the low-lit blue and red lights and smoke machine gave the show a moody, psychedelic vibe -- except none of the songs felt psychedelic. There were no extended jams or single-note drone machines. Every song featured a slow swirl of distorted guitars from both sides of the stage, each slashing out a continuous barrage of power chords. Bassist Tom Kelly routinely thrashed away downstrokes on his Fender bass, helping to partially break down the trebly sonic wall. Vocalist George Mitchell sings in a way that's part moan and part shout, and he was drowned in reverb for this show. What little he said between songs was almost incomprehensible. Right before the final number, "Possessed," he encouraged people to sing along if they knew the words.
Mitchell as a frontman came across as detached and very much in his own head. Dressed head-to-toe in black colors that contrasted with his blonde hair, he let every word peel out of his mouth while keeping his eyes closed. Again, the amount of reverb on his voice often masked the actual words he said. Still, he came across as a someone wanting some kind of cathartic release, not some by-the-numbers distraction from the instruments.
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With where Eagulls are in their young career, their sound is clearly defined, which may not leave very much room for growth at this stage. Mitchell could perhaps sing more clearly and some songs could benefit from being less-than-charging all the time. Imagine if Warsaw stayed Warsaw and never became Joy Division or if Killing Joke never got beyond a couple of albums. Therein lies a problem for a band if they want to last for more than a few years. Then again, no one ever plans to burn out or fade away.