Urge Overkill – Oui – (Omnivore Recordings)
Chicago duo returns with a badly-needed set of rockers
Urge Overkill created one of the finest rock albums of the Nineties with Saturation. That 1993 record was full of loud guitars and melodic hooks, coming out at the height of grunge. The band opened for both Nirvana and Pearl Jam, before notching a surprise hit the next year in their cover of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” from the Pulp Fiction movie and soundtrack.
There was just no way to follow up that one-two punch, so 1995’s Exit the Dragon was kind of a letdown, and the band broke up. Reforming in 2011, they delivered Rock n’ Roll Submarine (which we reviewed here). Now, the pair of Nash Kato and King Roeser is back eleven years later, with Oui.
Oui is unabashedly ROCK. From the album title, that recalls a now-defunct men’s magazine, to the guitar-heavy music within, everything here is gleefully out of step.
In the pole position on the record is their surprise cover of Wham’s “Freedom.” Kind of shocked they placed it first, but also – it’s so different, slashing guitars, muscled drums, I honestly didn’t recognize the song at first. Kato spits out the abbreviated lyrics and there’s a fantastic guitar solo in the middle.
After that bit of initial euphoria, things get decidedly darker with “Necessary Evil.” Roeser admits “you want someone to fill your glass all night” and “it’s killing me to pass on by.” Yet the twin guitar interlude makes even this bitter pill easier to consume.
The pounding “Follow My Shadow,” which features both Kato and Roeser on vocals, could’ve fit perfectly on Saturation. “How Sweet the Light” opens with a Who-inspired thunder before things get more contemplative and Kato confesses “I’m walking away from my suicide” and “I almost crossed over.”
No song here better captures the current mood quite like “Forgiven.” Over a driving blues riff, Roeser sings:
“I wanna be among the living”
“I don’t wanna hear your opinion”
“I wanna be…forgiven”
The thing that really stands out here is how solid of an album Oui really is. Past Urge records always had at least one song where the band got silly or experimental. Here, it’s surprisingly focused. Whether it’s the midtempo “Totem Poll” or the brooding “Litany,” it all fits.
“I Can’t Stay Glad @ U” features another Who reference – Kato uses the “shake you” / “wake you” rhyme, which recalls “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” But the acoustic guitar-led jangling makes it another of the memorable tracks on the album.
All killer, no filler. Is rock still alive? Urge Overkill says an emphatic “Oui.” —Tony Peters