Friday, March 19, 2004

#39) Urge Overkill - Saturation (released in 1993, I bought a used cassette from Arboria in high school, eventually getting it on used CD from City Lights so that I could play tracks on my radio show)

Where so many '90s "classics" only make sense when provided with context, Saturation actually sounds better without any knowledge about the band. Hearing "Sister Havana" or "Positive Bleeding" on the radio now, the word "irony" doesn't even come into play, these songs actually work as timeless hook-filled pop-rawkers. If the motives behind weepers like "Bottle Of Fur" and "The Dropout" were cynical, then these guys had a tremendous knack for making the emotions they were playing at resonate. But judging by their friendship with Liz Phair and their inability to maintain a corporate shelf-life, I'm guessing these guys were just giddy to try out of all the moves that other bands had wowed them with.

If punk is just metal without the guitar solos, then Urge Overkill saw alternative rock as hair-metal sans noodlage (which, if the rumors are true, they weren't really capable of anyhow). Titles like "Woman 2 Woman," "Crackbabies," "Heaven 90210" and "Erica Kane" should make it clear these guys weren't planning on making Pearl Jam's Eleven, though they don't clue you into how layered these songs are. Nothing sounds too complex but the licks and sounds add up to something unusually rich and powerful (plus if you're a sucker for bells in a rock song then you need to hear the climax of "Bottle Of Fur"). After a fluke hit with a Neil Diamond cover from '92 and a downtrodden but rewarding follow-up, Exit The Dragon, the band broke up amidst ego conflicts and heroin problems for drummer Blackie Onassis (whose cautionary OD tale "The Mistake" was a startling highlight of their final album). The band has recently reunited and I'm curious how much of their old magic they'll be able to regain. I'm glad they're trying.

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