Finding one’s voice isn’t just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced.
—Jonathan Lethem, "The Ecstasy of Influence"
You take away our right to steal ideas, where are they going to come from?
—Roger Meyers Jr., The Simpsons
Do a literature review of the many words already shed over UK miscreants Eagulls, and it reads like a primer on the language of classic post-punk. The vocals aren't "sung," they're "intoned"; guitars are "swirling" (but only when they're not already "squelling" or "squalling"); the basslines are, of course, "propulsive." It's like the band started with the premise "let's rip off Killing Joke," and everything sorta grew from there. They even put out a cover of "Requiem" late last year, just so you couldn't help but notice that they've got their daddy's eyes.
The Leeds five-piece look and sound like they were beamed here from early-Thatcherite England, captured in the transporter sometime between opening for The Psychedelic Furs and stepping off a session with Martin Hannett. They don't just wear their influences on their sleeves; their baggy parkas are fully made of 'em. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that.
After four years of touring, recording, and basically heaping their praises into a ski hill, Eagulls dropped off their self-titled debut last week. It's top prize post-punk from some very promising students of the early Manchester and London scenes. "Nerve Endings" is basically "One Hundred Years" off of The Cure’s Pornography, the latter's needling lead now crushed up against the rhythm section, mowing along like a combine. "Tough Luck" is a shimmering, little nugget of redemption thrown out for the downcast — the spiritual kin of "Dreams Never End," track one off New Order's debut after the passing of Ian Curtis. And the album's centrepiece, "Possessed," understands the mechanics of Killing Joke's "Requiem" — a minimalistic study on a big, bad riff — better than their own racing cover.
On the subject of influence in art, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch said: "Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.” There's a reason why Eagulls (or Holograms or Iceage or Savages) are revisiting the sounds of the pre-Madchester underground — why that history speak to their souls, as Jarmusch says.
Blame it on the dreary disposition of northern climes or the mindlessness of pop radio (always a great scapegoat in lazy cultural crit), but if we're really hunting for reasons why the countercultural aesthetic of Thatcherite England has gained a new currency, something must be said about present day political, cultural, and social climates that breed despondency before dissent. Could this mopey pose be the product of snowballing debt, shitty jobs prospects, perpetual foreign conflict, and, generally, no way out?
In 1980, Killing Joke was the sound of a generation saying they had no agency in their own future. Perhaps, history has come knocking.