Urge Overkill – Rock n Roll Submarine
As the last remnants of the Grunge revolution dissolve into history, few bands have been left on the list that may carry the quintessential sound that made grubby dress and cheap aggressive guitar-driven rock the proverbial ‘shit’. Surviving 90s bands like Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins and Alice in Chains have evolved in style and sound, and others have simply crumbled to ash under the weight of the intense expectations accompanying this so-called musical revolution.
Ironically, it is from the ashes that Eddie Roeser and Nash Kato have reawaken Urge Overkill for their first album in 16 years, Rock n Roll Submarine. But rather than a simplistic cash-grab of mediocre rock tunes, their latest effort since 1995’s Exit the Dragon, is a wonderfully aggressive and raw homage to the seminal sound of 90s rock – complete with sludgy riffs and simple harmonies.
Best known for their cover of Neil Diamond’s Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon (featured in Pulp Fiction) Urge Overkill have stopped at nothing to give a wide buffet of sounds, all of which portray different aspects of the grunge sound. On Thought Balloon, Kato and Roeser display the loud-quiet-loud approach of many famous bands at the time of their success, most notably Nirvana, and this forgotten tactic is revitalised with brilliant intensity. Other tracks, most notably Quiet Person, feature a sardonic sense of humour, with the aforementioned track containing the lines, “I was always a quiet person / How could you know if you never talk to me.”
However, in some cases it is an all-out sludge-fest. On She’s My Ride, Kato bends his guitar strings in every way possible on a tasty bed of arpeggio chords and wailing harmonies. The aggressive nature of opener Mason/Dixon rings with catchy hooks and smashing cymbals and Little Vice chugs with aggression and focus. Nevertheless, there is the occasional dud track, such as the mediocre Niteliner, two minutes and twenty seconds is probably too long.
But it is the almost perfect start to Rock n Roll Submarine that makes it so astounding. Like rapid fire, they shoot off Mason/Dixon, 70s prog-rock and title track Rock n Roll Submarine, and the spectacular single Effigy. It is this last track that deserves the most praise, containing the best hook on the album and combining it with 90s sensibilities and contemporary rock to smash the eardrums.
All these efforts in total make for an infectious album of differing flavours and sounds. The production is almost flawless and there are few songs without identifiable hooks. They may have been disbanded for a decade and half, but Urge Overkill sound like it was just yesterday.
Standout tracks: Effigy, She’s My Ride, Rock n Roll Submarine
Summary: Guitar-driven rock has become of less importance in recent years, and few bands do it as earnestly and provocatively as these Chicago veterans, who for a great time looked like never reforming.