Urge Overkill – Rock n’ Roll Submarine (album review)

Urge Overkill – Rock n’ Roll Submarine (Redeye) CD review

The world is now safe for rock n’ roll once again – Urge Overkill have resurfaced from a 16-year absence to bring us Rock n’ Roll Submarine; 12 new tracks of their signature, high octane, hook- laden rock.  What set Urge Overkill apart from other bands that emerged in the early Nineties was their ability to combine punk and mainstream.  Knife-sharp guitar riffs and thunderous drumming coupled with an uncanny melodic sense made their music radio-ready.

1993’s Saturation was glossy, full of great songs, and should’ve rocketed the band to superstardom.  But, although the single“Sister Havana” received considerable radio play, they found big success elusive.  Then came Quentin Tarantino’s cult hit movie Pulp Fiction, which featured Urge Overkill’s knockoff of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” prominently.  But, how the hell do you follow up a song that was meant as a throwaway?  They indeed had that trouble with 1995’s Exit the Dragon, which failed to create a hit single, and they disappeared.

We now know that the band has been hanging out in their Rock n’ Roll Submarine (the floor plan of this underwater party pad is included in the CD booklet – it contains a bowling alley, recording studio, and, most importantly, a Chinese take-out window!).  Whatever they’ve been doing for the last decade and a half, they’ve managed to return with their sound completely intact.  The opening riffs of “Mason/Dixon” make you realize just how bad we need a record like this to cut through all the “doom and gloom” music passing for rock these days.  It’s an upbeat, fist-pumper with the line “whatever happened in North Carolina”?  Whatever DID happen, the band isn’t revealing. The title cut, “Rock n’ Roll Submarine,” has a hummable lead line and hand claps on the chorus.  The band leaked the lead-off single, “Effigy,” last year in anticipation of the new record.  Sung by co-leader Eddie “King” Roeser, it’s a fierce, pounding rocker that ranks among the best the band has ever laid to tape.   “Thought Balloon,” featuring acoustic guitars and deep vocals by Nash Kato is another highlight.

They also add some different elements here, as in the mandolin on “Quiet Person,” and the psychedelic guitar on “She’s My Ride.” There is a raw immediacy to this record – there seems to be very little overdubs and a lot of it is in mono, making it punchy as hell.  Only the last song on the disc, “Touch To a Cut,” with its goofy, effects-laden percussion, is a throwaway – but, clocking in at just over two minutes, it’s over before you know it.  Urge Overkill have put out another record full of kick-ass rock.  Let’s hope they follow this one up real soon.  —–Tony Peters