Urge Overkill

The Windy City's most-beloved entertainers.
*special introductory paragraph!
*Strange, I... EP
*Jesus Urge Superstar
*Jesus Urge Superstar/Americruiser CD
*Supersonic Storybook
*Stull EP
*The Urge Overkill Story.... Stay Tuned 1988-1991.
*Exit The Dragon
*Rock & Roll Submarine
Egotistical assholes from Chicago, so it is writ. They dress suave, act like big rock stars, drink cocktails, charge $15 a concert, and sell almost no records. As that bully on The Simpsons might say - "Ah ha!" Actually, regardless of how nice or not so nice the band members might be, depending on whether you ask Liz Phair or Steve Albini, they really do have the capacity to create phenomenally moving music. Back when they were lo-fi, they boasted cool guitar lines and strong vocals, but with an underground feel to it that added to the charm. Now that they're on a major label, they seem to be trying more to record hit singles than anything else, but even in this field, they've proven that they still have a whole lot more AOR riff ideas runnin' through their heads than most of the "real" bands they seem to be emulating. So that's something. Let's just sit back and see where they take it, eh?



Strange, I... EP - Ruthless 1986.
Rating = 6

Sounds an awful lot like Big Black, but Big Black's not a bad band to sound like, if you're going to sound like somebody. The bass is heavy, the guitar is reverbed and tinny, and the lyrics are shouted, but a few of the songs (particularly "All Worked Out") rise above the din just enough to get tagged into your musical memory for all time. Unfortunately, every time you get one of 'em stuck in your head, you'll spend the next four hours wondering, "Was that Big Black or Rapeman?" Definitely not a groundbreaking little record, but good enough and of great historical interest for bunny rabbits.
Reader Comments

avid999@xmsg.com (David Smith)
The comparison to Rapeman seems a little unfair given that this record came out two years previous to the first Rapeman EP. That and the fact that is doesn't really sound much like Rapeman.

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Jesus Urge Superstar - Touch And Go 1989.
Rating = 8

The beautiful sounds of a band developing its own identity. The production is awfully crude, but the Cream-meets-Sonic Youth guitar stylings shine through the muck like a crazy diamond or have a cigar. A few of 'em near the beginning and end just fly on over, but the middle section, featuring the beautiful "Head On" and "Your Friend Is Insane," among others, is, in the words of the immortal Iggy Pop, "Your pretty face is going to hell."

Some of these melodies are on the ugly, hard-to-follow side ("Dubbledead," for example), but the more you pay attention to what's going on musically, the better they sound. It's just that we as average everyday music fans aren't used to having to struggle to understand a melody. That's why early Thinking Fellers and Polvo never caught on, and why even I, musical voyeur that I am, generally steer clear of that weird Japanese noise stuff. And although Urge Overkill, even at this point in their career, were easier to follow than any of that crazy foreigner stuff (though far from embarrassingly simplistic, like their more recent Foreigner stuff), you might still find this album a bit hard to handle at first (weird production and all). A lot of good ideas are in there, though! Guitar freaks take heed! You will not leave unsatisfied!

Reader Comments

One of my favourite UO records, even though there's a couple weak spots. I'm convinced they were high when they wrote "God Flinstone", and even higher when they put it at side 1, track 1. But "Your Friend's Insane" is amazing, "Dubbledead" features a creepy Vegas-esque vocal over a weird, halting rhythm that's hard to kick, and the blues hollerin' going on in stuff like "Last Train To Heaven", "Very Sad Trousers", and "Dump Dump Dump" is awesome.

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Americruiser - Touch And Go 1990.
Rating = 8

The Overkill have a go at rock 'n' roll excess. And a darn worthwhile look it is, even if only the hilarious side-enders "Empire Builder" and "Smokehouse" go completely over the top as much as they all should. In fact, it really doesn't rock anywhere near hard enough to live up to the UO schtick, which had already developed to the point where the clothes were as important as the music, but still, "Ticket To L.A." kicks, "76 Ball" trudges lovelyly while paying ode to that little symbol that the band stole and adopted as their own, and "Faroutski" is about as catchy as guitar rock can get. Too darn short a record, though. Only eight songs, and a couple of 'em don't do much of anything.
Reader Comments

How can you write a review of this album and not recognize that "Out on the Airstrip" is National Kato's best song ever. I get the feeling you favor the "King" which is fine, Eddie rules, but to truly appreciate the U.R.G.E., one must give it up for Nash.

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* Jesus Urge Superstar/Americruiser cd - Touch And Go 1990. *
Rating = 10

Combine two really good records and you get a great one! The lesser songs hardly make a dent in a collection this large, and the bonus tracks, "Eggs" and "Wichita Lineman" (maybe you've heard it by Glen Campbell?) are among the finest numbers they've ever performed! Truly bonus tracks, in every sense of the word. A couple of wonderwomanful photos of the combo will catch your pupil (and perchance your funny bone!) too. The longest, thickest, most probing, long-lasting, meatiest, juiciest, veiniest, squirtiest Urge Overkill penis you can buy.

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Supersonic Storybook - Touch And Go 1991.
Rating = 8

Jesus Urge Superstar cleaned up and sweetened for more palatable consumption. The Americruiser r'n'roll is almost gone completely, giving way to the cooler guitar stylings of "The Candidate," "Vacation In Tokyo," and "Theme From Navajo." Very loud guitars, but in a pretty way. Real clear tones give new life to that Cream-meets-Sonic Youth style I mentioned earlier. Slightly bluesy, but with full understanding of the powers of post-punk chime and drone. And "Blackie's Birthday" is catchy as dad's new fish! One time I sat down in front of my parents' CD player and listened to that one song over and over and over and over again for about 45 minutes, bouncing around excitedly every time I heard the opening melody. Man, what a fun bit o' tuneage. A couple of "funk/soul" experiments fail miserably, but the smooth rock stuff is suave as can be. Plus, it's got the best production yet! Go, Steve Albini, former leader of Big Black and Rapeman, go!
Reader Comments

This record kicks lots of ass. Blackie has to be one of the most powerful drummers I've ever heard (well, he's up there with Grohl and Crover anyhoo), and he's what really makes these songs pound. And I agree with Mark, "Blackie's birthday" is one heck of an INSANELY catchy song. I listened to it right after I bought the album and I literally could not get it out of my head the entire day. Every song here is a winner. Hooray for UO.

Great album, has great production courtesy of Steve Albini (i love the drum sounds he gets), and has a nice guitar sound as well. 1 or 2 losers, but most of it is great, my faves being "Blackies Birthday", "The Candidate", "The Kids Are Insane", and "Theme From Navajo". Got this album for 3 bucks! Can you believe such a travesty? Just thrown in the used bin and stayed there for a while till i finally picked it up after not previously hearing a second of it. 8/10

O.k., Mark, once again you are mighty confused. One quick look at the back of this record will reveal that it was produced by "Urge Overkill at the Chicago Recording Company". Steve Albini has never, to my knowledge, ever been in the line-up of UO. He actually was talking trash about the band about the time this record came out. Steve Albini has never produced anything that sounds this good, he usually wrecks any band he's not in. Oh yeah , by the way, FUCK STEVE ALBINI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is the best album Urge Overkill ever did, period, from beginning to end.Nobody else sounded like this when it came out. Jesus Urge Superstar could have been great with someone else on the boards. I read an interview with UO once and they hate the way that album is produced. It's still one of my faves, despite the production, but once again, FUCK STEVE ALBINI UP THE CORNHOLE!!!!!
You should really change your review, it just kind of makes you look ignorant. Just read the back of the album, you'll see...go ahead...

avid999@xmsg.com (David Smith)
Actually, Albini did record this record, but relations between him and the band deteriorated during the recording to the point where he asked to have his name left off the artwork.

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Stull EP - Touch And Go 1992.
Rating = 8

Too short! Released simply to fulfill a contractual obligation so they could run off to Geffen and make the big money, this 'un offers up two of the hippest guitar groovers they'd written yet ("Goodbye To Guyville" and "Stull"), plus two very very impressively-executed covers (Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon," later featured in Pulp Fiction, and some punk band's "Stitches") and two Billy Childish-sorta mod early-Kinksish tunes from a single released earlier in the year. A very good record, sure, but what it lacks in length, it also lacks in power. The Kinksy ones just aren't that emotionally resonant, quite frankly. Catchy maybe, but they don't fit in a lick with the rest of the record. Or the graveyard album jacket. You can probably get it cheap, though, and on 10" marble-colored vinyl, it's a shootin' star just waitin' to bust lose!
Reader Comments

Um..."Now That's The Barclords" and "What's This Generation Coming To" are the two best songs on this. That single rules. It was the first UO I ever heard and I flipped out. What are you thinking?!

Short, but not a bad song in the bunch. I always figured this was the bridge between 'messy' UO and the 'clean' UO from the Geffen years. Agree with bylcote555 - those two songs are INCREDIBLE and Prindle is FUCKED UP.

Yep, the Stull EP was too short, but just begins to demonstrate the ingenious, arena-esque, pop-rock moves that would shortly be unleashed with Saturation. And the single, "Stull," has got to be one of the most haunting songs I've ever heard. Melikes it!

Released to fulfill a contractual obligation?! Touch and Go records operated completely via the handshake deal, which was why the Butthole Surfers were able to single-handedly destroy that label in court.

Yes, this record is sadly too short, because it contains some of the best stuff they've ever released, especially the super-creepy title track and the two amazing rockers that you mentioned, the ones that don't sound a bit like Billy Childish, or the Kinks, really, for that matter. They're just straight-up awesome rock 'n roll!

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The Urge Overkill Story... Stay Tuned 1988-1991 - Touch And Go 1993.
Rating = 9

A promo compilation. A bit short, but finally you can hear "Blackie's Birthday" and "The Candidate" without having to sit through "Bionic Revolution," you can dazzle your ears with "Ticket To L.A." and "Faroutski" without having to fast forward through "Viceroyce," and you can walk around naked in your living room to the wondrous "Head On" without being driven to put on a few articles of clothing by the ruthless dull factor of "Crown Of Laffs." Still don't know why they chose to include the two weakest tracks from Stull, but that's neither here nor there. It's still a great introduction to a talented band on the verge of not becoming the next Nirvana.
Reader Comments

Maybe because they are the best 2 cuts on Stull !!!...Jeezis...

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Saturation - Geffen 1993.
Rating = 5

The Urge's major-label debut starts off promising enough; the riffs are recycled, but used well in a semi-ironic post-classic rock power pop context. "Sister Havana" and "Positive Bleeding" are especially effective in welcoming in this new music-to-match-the-fashion era of our beloved UO. But, alas, they can't pull it off for a whole album. After track four, it all goes down the toilet of limited imagination. The references aren't funny, the lyrics aren't clever (reaching a chuckle-chuckle nadir with "Heavenly Thrills 90210"), and, most importantly, the melodies just aren't catchy! Like a late-period Bad Company album, most of this stuff just doesn't register at all. No interesting guitar work - just straight-ahead post-Nevermind slick pop "grunge," and about as unfulfilling as you'd expect from a band that chose image over content.
Reader Comments

Whoa! Listen to this one again, Prindle, because your review for Saturation is dreadfully misleading. Okay, maybe the "guitar interplay" isn't at it's grooviest, but that's about third on my list of what makes a great UO song. The priorities are 1) That it rocks my house down (which songs like "Crackbabies", "Stalker", "Erica Kane" and "Tequila Sundae" do in spades) and 2) that the melodies are up to par. I will admit that on losers like "Woman 2 Woman" and "Heaven 90210", which is one of the worst UO tunes ever, the melodies are not very good. But what about "Bottle of Fur"? And "Nite and Grey"? Those hooks are fabulous, plus the two other awesome songs you mentioned in the review. I give this one a high 8.

One of the most fun albums ever, if you ask me. Did you?

motorcycleapache@hotmail.com (R.B.)
Ever break-up with somebody and one, and only one cd makes you feel better? That deserves at least an 8 "come around to my way of thinking"

The truth is Side 1 of Saturation contains six of the best songs written in the 1990's. "Sister Havana" and "Back On Me" are very Stones-y, a little heavier but with similar chord changes and hooks, mixed with Ramones-type speed punk. Side 2 is a little weaker but still has some pretty good tunes. Urge Overkill is all rock 'n' roll. To even compare this band to the pussy grunge bands of the last decade is just plain silly. The image of the grunge bands is to look and sound depressed and to make teenagers think they're depressed also...so depressed that they commiserate with grunge music. It sells records Urge Overkill never went this route. They were strictly fun, kickass rock done on their own terms. These guys can play. It was a shame to see them split up.

benalto@benalto.com (Rocket Robin Hood)
This is the ultimate "new" UO! Urge Overkill has like, 2 arcs to their career - first perfecting the sloppy blues-y rock which they did with Americruiser and then getting the whole "Neil Diamond Singing For Kiss" thing down which they did with this record. EVERY SINGLE SONG IS A CLASSIC. THERE IS NOT A BAD SONG ON THIS RECORD. NOT ONE! No interesting guitar work?? What about the amazing intro for "Heaven 90210"? Are you on crack? Lyrics not funny? "Woman To Woman"'s spoken word part is HILARIOUS. No, we are on different paths from this point on, Prindle. Especially when you go on to overrate that total piece of shit "Exit The Dragon" which was a "What do we do now?" kinda record...

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Exit The Dragon - Geffen 1995.
Rating = 8

Aaaah! This is more like it!!! See, this is truly the sound of that band that did Supersonic Storybook releasing a major-label album. The guitarwork is strong, with lots of classic UO style showing through in catchy movers like ""The Break" and "This Is No Place," but with a real strong feeling of Power FM generism to it. Don't be alarmed by this description - it's not throwaway crap like most of Saturation; rather, it's a collection of some really gripping somber tracks telling tales of sour relationships, drug addiction, dishonesty, and pain. They may just be out to score hit singles, but at least they live up to their own hype on this one. Most of these songs are fantastic! Real memorable classic rock - the best Foreigner album ever!!!

And I honestly wouldn't be surprised if I entered your home and discovered you in tears while listening to "The Mistake." I read somewhere that the drummer wrote it, which I find simply flabbergasting. Such a sad and beautiful melody. Catchy, too! Thank god for this record, 'cuz I really grew to hate this band after Saturation came out. After hearing this one, I see that they've still got it going on. They just need to remember where to put it!!!!

Reader Comments

dstraub@geosys.com (David Straub)
I'm surprised to see that no one has said anything about these guys yet. I really like this record, especially the middle part-- "Mistake", "Take Me", "View of the Rain"... all really good tunes... The "we're rock stars" deal can wear kinda thin though... read something in Rolling Stone a while back about Roeser's replacement-- Kato was quoted as saying something like (I'm sure this is only half-cynical) "He fit into the suits, so we decided to let him in." If I'm in the right mood that sort of thing makes me chuckle, but if I'm not, I'll just as soon head for a Fugazi album. I'd give Exit the Dragon an 8 too. Great production!

This is a GREAT album which 95% of Earth's population seems intent on bashing the hell out of. I must say, though, that I'm not a huge fan of Roeser's voice. It's too wimpy and whiny to fit into the UO style, so it's a good thing that his songs, like "This is no place" and "Jaywalkin" kick ass regardless. And Kato's songs rule here! "Somebody else's body", "monopoly", "need some air"? Awesome! Half the songs here are really dark. Not depressing, just dark and foreboding. "The Mistake" makes me wish that Blackie had sung more songs in the UO ouvre.

Regarding the demise of Urge Overkill.

Nate and Blackie finally had to dump King, owing to the fact that he became a useless, alcoholic mess ---- all his Geffen moolah is gone!

And even though they’ve added some new nameless, faceless guitarist ------ we all know, and deep down they know that the magic that was Urge is sadly no more.

Long live the King!

chuckhi@juno.com (Charles W. Hicks)
Seems like you're the only Urge site still going. I still listen to my albums and can't seem to get over 'Exit the Dragon'. Six years later I'm still waiting for the follow up that 'exit' seemed to be laying the ground work. This make sense? Keep wanting to hear how the stories spun out post dragon. Still comes off, even now, as the best and brutally honest album. Wish I could run across a few more albums that reach me as much as this one still does. Thanks.


You have to help me get out of this mad puzzle. Few years ago I saw a video, someone (now I can't be sure who, and I'm going crazy)was performing the best sound I've ever heard, it was 'Never Known A Girl Like You Before' and at the end the name of the song and the group appeared on TV, it was the mentioned song by 'Urge Overkill' and I said to myself well these guys are really cool, and few years after thanks to my computer and napster I made a search by artist on napster 'Urge Overkill' and saw that there was an mp3 of that incredible song and I downloaded it but today on TV I heard the same sound while reading newspaper and when I looked at the TV I saw that this was another video different than I remembered, I was confused and suddenly a name appeared when it was all finished, 'Girl Like You' Edwyn Collins, but how could it be possible IT WAS EXACTLY THE SAME SOUND compared to the mp3 on my computer and the one I recalled. So Nash Kato and this guy Edwyn Collins were twins or what? I was so confused that I made another search on napster with Edwyn Collins as the artist and saw that the same song performed by him existed. I've gone mad and searched some music sites ubl.artistdirect.com and some other and there is not the least clue that Urge Overkill has ever performed that song even in the soundtrack of the movie 'Empire Records' it's Edwyn Collins' name which is appearing but my napster file's name is Empire Records-Urge Overkill-Never Known A Girl Like You Before. So please help me I'm nearly going crazy it's like I'm in the movie 'Dark City' like someone has changed my memories, what is the TRUTH for God's sake? I remember very clear (even crystal) that Urge Overkill has performed that song but why the hell isn't there the least clue on that concerned music site? Please do help me and tell me if Urge Overkill has ever performed this song or not?

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Rock & Roll Submarine - Redeye 2011
Rating = 7

Like Boston's The Cars, Chicago's Urge Overkill have returned to the world of music sounding like they literally haven't listened to a single record since their 1995 split. Recorded by new line-up Nash Kato, Eddie "King" Roeser, Gaza Strippers guitarist Mike "Hadji" Hodgkiss and Cherry Valence drummer Brian "Bonn" Quast, this album sounds exactly like Urge Overkill. Specifically, it sounds like a cross between the emotional hard rock of Exit The Dragon, the feel-good radio pop of Saturation and the detached cool of Supersonic Storybook. And just as before, they're at their best when sticking to the darker, heavier tones of the scale.

First single "Effigy" is a great mean rocker, but is unfortunately misleading as the record only includes one other track like it (the equally killer "Little Vice"). The rest of the songs are overwhelmingly midtempo, and do very little to call attention to themselves. When they keep their cool, this is fine: album opener "Mason/Dixon" brings back the emotionless rock attack of Supersonic Storybook; the acoustic "Quiet Person" follows in the melancholy footsteps of "The Mistake"; and closer "Touch To A Cut" pairs a typically morose UO vocal with the sort of '80s new wave backdrop typically associated with aforementioned The Cars.

Unfortunately, when they lose their cool, they play light and happy material every bit as cutesy as yesteryear's rancid "Woman 2 Woman" and "Heavenly Thrills 90210." "The Valiant" is the worst example of this style, though "Poison Flower" and "Thought Balloon" come really goddamned close. "Poison Flower" sounds like The Black Crowes, for Christ's God! But enough namecalling; let's get down to the important thing.

The important thing is that fans who abandoned the band when they switched from the guitar god riffmerizing of Jesus Urge Overkill/Americruiser to the straight bar chords of Saturation are not going to like this one either. It's not as slick and processed as Saturation, but aside from a few hooky leads and scraggly personality-infused riffs (ex. "Rock & Roll Submarine," "She's My Ride") and a Blue Cheer wannabe cock rock stomper ("Niteliner"), the emphasis remains on user-friendly major and minor chord changes.

In short -- and again in common with the new Cars CD -- Rock & Roll Submarine beats the hell out of their worst album (Saturation), but isn't quite as consistent as all their others. I'm still thrilled it exists though. I'd assumed these guys were done for good, and a mere handful of great new UO songs is better than none at all!

And now here's a bunch of euphemisms I made up for "vagina":

Minus The Cat
Immanuel Kunt
Bag Full O' Penis
Blood Orange Pie
Tunnel of Dryness
Game, Set, Snatch!
Baby's First Waterslide
Romantic, Sensuous Gash
Harry Stinksalot, Fish Salesman
The Thing That Hangs Over A Girl's Balls

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Enjoy a bottle of fur at Mark Prindle's Pickled Perspiration Guide!