Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Record Ramble - Saturation by Urge Overkill
I first heard about Urge Overkill in 1993 when their video for the single "Sister Havana" came out. I didn't think much of the video itself (it was, to my mind, typical of the day), but I really dug the song. I had thought that they would become huge stars; indeed, they did land their version of Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" onto the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. They then released their second major-label release, Enter the Dragon, which more or less tanked (many blame Geffen Records for not giving the album the push it needed; others say that the darker, somber tone of the record itself alienated listeners). The subsequent tour saw the band fighting and basically imploding, like so many bands do. And, well, I promptly forgot about them. That is, until 2004, when I bought a copy of Mojo Magazine and read an article about "The 67 Lost Albums You Must Own". Urge Overkill's Saturation (Their major-label debut - the record containing "Sister Havana"!) was on that list. Reading that article planted a seed in my head. Sure enough, I saw Saturation at a CD store. In a bargain bin. For $2.99. SOLD!
Of course once I bought the thing, it took me a year and a half to bring myself to listen to anything but "Sister Havana" (that song is so good, the rest of the album must kinda suck in comparison...). Once I finally got around to it, however, I was/am really impressed...
At its best, Saturation combines tight playing, catchy hooks and choruses, unique song structuring, and a 70s arena-rock sensibility to create a work that's close to masterpiece. Easily half the CD should have been on the charts, beginning with "Sister Havana", the obvious hit single/signature tune, with its opening riff, tight production (courtesy of the Butcher Bros.), and lyrics combining romance and a plot to kill Castro (no, really). Other standouts include "Tequila Sundae", "Positive Bleeding", "Back On Me", "Bottle of Fur", "Crackbabies", "Erica Kane" ("...another Emmy's passed you by..."), and "Nite and Grey". Some of the touches seem a little hokey (a farty synth note cropping up in the chorus of "Tequila Sundae", the soap-opera keyboard theme at the beginning of "Crackbabies") or contrived (various bits of studio dialogue), but overall, this is a good-to-great album, because the best songs on here override all the junk (the bridges to each aforementioned song are worth the price of the recording sessions, in my opinion).
It was the best $2.99 I ever spent.