Thursday, May 12, 2011

Urge Overkill: "Rock & Roll Submarine" (album review)

Urge Overkill is a prime example of a great band that was ruined by a hit song.  No matter how good their work was after "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" struck it big in Pulp Fiction, in the eyes of tastemakers it would always be jaded by that song.

Now 15 years after their last album, the band have reunited to release Rock & Roll Submarine.  Well, two thirds of the band anyway, as Nash Kato and Eddie Roeser have returned with an incarnation that sees them performing as a quartet.

The band gives fans a nod to the past with the opener "Mason/Dixon".  The intro to the song sounds like they took the "Sister Havana" riff, flipped it on its head, and took a belt sander to it.  "End Of Story" is classic Urge Overkill, featuring an arrangement that ducks and counter-thrusts.

You get the requisite head-bopping moments with "She's My Ride" and the title track.  "Thought Balloon" gives you an infectious hook.  It's "Effigy", though, that's the standout moment.  A blistering riff, big hook, and high octane delivery illustrate just how good Urge Overkill can be.

The album does have its fair share of filler though.  Tracks like "Little Vice", "The Valiant", and "Niteliner" are rather pedestrian mid-tempo numbers.  The album also suffers from a mix that has rendered the bass parts far too thin.  A beefier bassline would add a welcome kick to many of these tracks.

There's no denying that Rock & Roll Submarine pales in comparison to Urge Overkill's most seminal works.  The hooks aren't quite as sharp.  The energy level isn't nearly as high nor is it as consistent.  However, it is good to hear the band return.  After all, Urge Overkill at half power is better than most indie power pop out there today.

Best tracks: "Effigy", "Thought Balloon"

Track listing for Rock & Roll Submarine:
  • Mason/Dixon
  • Rock & Roll Submarine
  • Effigy
  • Poison Flower
  • Little Vice
  • Thought Balloon
  • Quiet Person
  • She's My Ride
  • End of Story
  • The Valiant
  • Niteliner
  • Touch to a Cut
Urge Overkill's website

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reap said...

I actually think this is a great album. I find with the exception of Saturation, it takes a while for me to appreciate their albums. That's not a knock on them, I just think like alcohol some things are best taken slow. My favorite album of UO is Supersonic Storybook, which took a very long time for me to get into. What surprised me is how much it seemed like a good transition from the excellent Exit the Dragon. I don’t personally think there is any filler; in fact, this seems album seems very straightforward, unpolished and to the point. I also like they brought back their great humor. C’mon man, give it another listen!

gogmagog said...

Thanks for the review. In this listener's opinion, though, I have to rank this directly behind - if not equal to - what I consider their high-water mark, Exit the Dragon. RnR Submarine is, for me, another refreshing no-frills, needs-no-label set of straight up rock and roll while at the same time a resurrection of a great band who, until this week, saw their recorded legacy silenced way too early.

Anonymous said...

i rate it as an album and them as a group very highly. who does two guitars these days? so who does it better?? they are among the best of the best.
what a road back... i think they are the only group i know of who have the talent to do great things way beyond most average, up and coming or many well established and re-arranged bands.
sure it must be tough for them having to re establish from no-where on there own backs and gig-it-up and tour from the backseat to try and snare a record deal that may not be their... but who else can pull the rebellious emotional depth of the century in the song effigy "shout out the hate a police state and only one way out" this shit is john dillanger meets some freshman. who else could pull out steve jones from the sex pistols and pull it off?
this has a sampler feel to me and i hope the a&r guys get it... even at there age they'll get a market share... i'd put good money into them.
wouldn't the radio and population cool in general be far better with many many more great urge tracks...