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