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Urge Overkill

Few bands ever lusted after rock stardom quite as blatantly as Chicago's Urge Overkill. Although they draped their quest for stardom in a cloak of ironic detachment, it's quite clear the trio members expected that if they acted like stars, they would become stars. For a while, their stylish, retro-'70s outfits, matching medallions, and heavy Cheap Trick homages earned the group a popular following in alternative rock circles. The SuperSonic Storybook and the Stull EP were both underground hits in the early '90s, before alternative rock became big business. Once alternative rock entered the big leagues, it seemed likely that Urge Overkill, with their exceptionally accessible combination of arena rock, power pop, and underground punk, would follow Nirvana to the top of the charts, but mainstream America never quite understood their ironic outlook, embracing the group only after their cover of Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" was used in a key scene in Pulp Fiction. Instead of breaking down the doors to stardom, the song proved to be a breaking point. Exit the Dragon, the first album released after the hit single, was a bomb, receiving little radio or MTV support, and the bandmembers soon fell prey to their widely documented excesses. Of course, Urge Overkill were always unlikely candidates for rock stardom. The group's core members, Nash Kato (b. Nathan Katruud; occasionally billed as National Kato) and Eddie "King" Roeser, were Midwest suburbanites who met at college in Chicago. Taking their name from a Parliament song, the duo formed Urge Overkill in 1985 with drummer Jack Watt (billed as "the Jaguar") and recorded their debut EP, Strange, I... with Kato's roommate Steve Albini the following year. Neither Strange, I... nor its full-length follow-up, the Albini-produced Jesus Urge Superstar, gained much attention, primarily because the group was attempting to replicate the noise rock aesthetic of so many other Chicago-based acts on Touch & Go Records. However, the Butch Vig-produced Americruiser (1990) featured an improved sound and sense of style, highlighted on the near-college hit "Ticket to LA." Drummer Blackie Onassis (b. Johnny Rowan) was added to the band prior to the recording of its third album. With Onassis in the band, Urge Overkill landed on their Stonesy fusion of arena rock and punk, as well as their idea to act like stars. The new Urge Overkill were debuted on 1991's The SuperSonic Storybook, which became an underground hit thanks to strong reviews and a slot opening for Nirvana on the American Nevermind tour. Urge hired Kramer to produce the 1992 Stull EP, which featured both "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" and "Goodbye to Guyville," a kiss-off to the Chicago indie rock scene the band had alienated; Liz Phair would later borrow the term for her acclaimed debut album, Exile in Guyville. Urge Overkill signed to DGC Records in 1992, although they were still contracted to record another album for Touch & Go. Their jump to the majors angered the whole label, particularly their former producer Albini, who publicly attacked the band in several interviews. Still, the band's 1993 major-label debut, Saturation, was greeted with strong reviews upon its summer release. Produced by the Butcher Brothers (Cypress Hill), the album sounded like a sure-fire alternative crossover hit, but only "Sister Havana" earned much airplay. Furthermore, the band began to alienate certain members of the alternative rock community with its constant preening, and a few anti-Urge campaigns were launched in the American indie rock underground. As the band was preparing to record its follow-up to Saturation, Quentin Tarantino picked the group's cover of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" for the soundtrack to his unexpected hit Pulp Fiction. On the strength of the movie's success, the song became a hit, seemingly setting the stage for a breakthrough success with 1995's Exit the Dragon. But the success never happened. Scheduled for early summer of 1995, the album didn't appear until the fall, when it was greeted with mixed reviews. The lead single from the album, "The Break," was rather uncommercial, and received little airplay. The group began a tour that fall but it quickly turned disastrous, with opening act Guided by Voices being kicked off amidst much controversy just a few weeks in. A few weeks later, the remaining concerts were canceled altogether and never rescheduled. Toward the end of the year, Blackie Onassis was picked up for heroin possession. No charges were pressed and the incident was kept quiet, but the album was already pronounced dead in the water by the media and DGC. Urge Overkill spent 1996 in seclusion as they attempted to regroup. By the end of the year, tensions between Nash Kato and Eddie "King" Roeser had escalated, resulting in Roeser's departure from the band. Kato and Onassis continued on as a duo, leaving DGC for 550 Music in early 1997. As the band was preparing its first album for 550 Music, Roeser was replaced with guitarist Nils St. Cyr. However, unhappy with the results, the label soon dropped them, upon which point Urge Overkill disbanded. Nash Kato released his solo debut, Debutante, in early 2000. The band, this time minus Onassis, reunited for a worldwide tour in 2004 and played the occasional festival or one-off show afterwards. In 2010 the band got serious and hit the recording studio with a renewed sense of purpose. In May of 2011, the new version of Urge, which included Kato and Roeser along with ex-Polvo drummer Bonn Quast and ex-Gaza Strippers bassist Mike "Hadji" Hodgkiss, released its first collection of new studio material in 16 years, Rock & Roll Submarine. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Stations Featuring
Urge Overkill

    Martini Lounge

    Martini Lounge
    1 song

    Movie Tracks

    Movie Tracks
    1 song

    '90s Alternative

    '90s Alternative
    1 song

Albums by
Urge Overkill

Top Songs by
Urge Overkill

  1.   Song
  2.   Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon
  3.   Sister Havana
  4.   Positive Bleeding
  5.   Back on Me
  6.   Tequila Sundae
  7.   Crackbabies
  8.   Nite and Grey
  9.   The Stalker
  10.   Erica Kane
  11.   Little Vice
  12.   (Now That's) The Barclords
  13.   Last Night/Tomorrow
  14.   Barclords, (Now That's) The
  15.   This Is No Place
  16.   And You'll Say
  17.   Stitches
  18.   Goodbye to Guyville
  19.   Theme From Navajo
  20.   What's This Generation Coming To?
  21.   Emmaline
  22.   Thought Balloon
  23.   She's My Ride
  24.   Rock & Roll Submarine
  25.   Quiet Person
  26.   End of Story
  27.   Effigy
  28.   Erica
  29.   Art of Man
  30.   Empire Builder
  31.   Digital Black Epilogue
  32.   View of the Rain
  33.   Jaywalkin'
  34.   Stull, Pt. 1
  35.   Dropout
  36.   Vacation in Tokyo
  37.   What Is Artane?
  38.   Bionic Revolution
  39.   Heaven 90210
  40.   The Valiant
  41.   Touched to a Cut
  42.   Poison Flower
  43.   Niteliner
  44.   Woman 2 Woman
  45.   Viceroyce
  46.   The Kids Are Insane
  47.   Generation
  48.   Systems
  49.   My New Church
  50.   Eggs
  51.   Wichita Lineman
  52.   Smokehouse
  53.   Out on the Airstrip
  54.   Faroutski
  55.   76 Ball
  56.   Blow Chopper
  57.   Ticket to L.A.
  58.   Robert Montgomery
  59.   Monopoly
  60.   Take Me
  61.   The Mistake
  62.   The Break
  63.   Bottle of Fur
  64.   Dubbledead
  65.   Crown of Laffs
  66.   Head On
  67.   The Polaroid Doll
  68.   Dump Dump Dump
  69.   Your Friend Is Insane
  70.   Very Sad Trousers
  71.   Henhough: The Greatest Story Ever Told
  72.   The Candidate
  73.   God Flintstone
  74.   Last Train to Heaven
  75.   All Worked Out
  76.   Easter '88
  77.   (Today Is) Blackie's Birthday
  78.   Tin Foil
  79.   Need Some Air
  80.   Live Stull
  81.   Take a Walk
  82.   Ticket
  83.   Somebody Else's Body
  84.   Mason/Dixon
  85.   Honesty Files
  86.   Woman to Woman
  87.   Snakemobile
  88.   Barclords
  89.   All the Way
  90.   Last Night and Tomorrow
  91.   Quality Love
  92.   New O
  93.   Positive
  94.   Witchita Lineman