Urge Overkill

Saturation (Geffen ’93) Rating: A-
Born poseurs having long acted like the born stars that they aren’t, at the time of this release Urge Overkill were better known for their stylish appearances, martini toting attitudes, and the bad blood between them and former mentor (and fellow Chicagoan) Steve Albini than for their music. But I don't really care about any of that. It's the music that matters, right? Well, fortunately there's some fine music on this album, beginning with “Sister Havana” and “Positive Bleeding,” two great straight ahead rock singles that finally garnered the band some radio airplay. Elsewhere, the band comes on like KISS on the simple but hard rocking and easily singable "Tequila Sundae," while "Back On Me" and "Bottle Of Fur" are catchy, melancholic mid-tempo rockers of the type you'd expect from Soul Asylum when they're going good. As you may have surmised by the above comparisons, this isn't the most original band around, but at least they try out different styles beyond the sleekly ironic, hard rocking glam pop that they're best known for (and which has often been compared to Cheap Trick). For example, "The Stalker" sounds like a bad Bleach outtake (hey, I didn't say all of the different styles worked), while "Dropout" delivers cheesy synth soul pop that I know I shouldn't like but which I really like just the same (think Ween doing "Spirit Of '76"). Even better, "Erica Kane" actually gives the listener the best of both worlds by first hurtling forward as a chugging groove rocker (with a surprisingly kickass guitar solo) before transforming into another kitschy soul pop chorus before returning to seriously rocking out again. Anyway, to get away from song-by-song descriptions and speak in more general terms again, suffice it to say that with only average singing and playing abilities and a fairly generic mainstream sound, Urge Overkill are only as good as their hooks. Fortunately, the hooks are fairly abundant throughout, though there are a couple of songs (“Woman 2 Woman” and “Crackbabies”) that make me reach for the fast forward button, as does “The Stalker” come to think of it, and “Nite and Gray” is solid but sounds like an inferior rewrite of “Tequila Sundae.” Still, a few misfires aside, on the whole this was a highly entertaining album that saw the band improving their craft, thereby proving that there was indeed some substance behind their stylish suits. Note: Their cover of Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" further increased the band's profile when it was included on the popular Pulp Fiction soundtrack, but 1995's Exit the Dragon was a commercial disappointment and the band later broke up.

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