Early UO is nothing essential
Sal Nudo | Champaign, Illinois | 10/27/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Those rough-around-the-edges riffs and smoky vocals of Nash Kato and Eddie "King" Roeser are endearing at first on tunes like "Ticket to L.A.," "Blow Chopper" and "76 Ball." Still, there's sparse evidence on "Americruiser/Jesus Urge Superstar" that Urge Overkill would grow into the more melodic yet still-rocking juggernaut it would become by 1993 on Saturation, and later yet on the even more impressive Exit the Dragon from 1995. Unfortunately, there's just a mere adequacy to these songs that makes Urge Overkill's semi-superstardom status in the early- to mid-1990s somewhat puzzling. Obviously, the band developed its musical skills, worked harder on songwriting and inserted melody into its songs in the succeeding three years after this double album and the lacking The Supersonic Storybook were put out. The good news is, most of these songs are relatively short and to the point, though after 20 tunes everything feels like a drag.
So what songs stand out a little? "Faroutski," sung by Kato, contains good guitar work, rocks out and isn't bad. Same could be said for "Out on the Airstrip," one of the better songs on the CD. The best tune might be "God Flintstone," which does contain the aforementioned missing melody and a more atmospheric sound than the rest of the songs. In fairness, things do slightly improve by the middle of the CD, but not enough to make it essential listening. If you can make it through the entire disc without getting bored, congratulations. Surprisingly, famed producer and Garbage member Butch Vig produced these messy tunes. Jack "The Jaguar" Watt contributed drums (before the days of future UO drummer Blackie O).
What's interesting about these songs is how an in-your-face rock `n' roll roadhouse sound and vibe pervades instead of melody and professional song structure, unlike UO's future work. "Viceroyce," the large-and-in-charge "Smokehouse" and "Last Train to Heaven" are perfect examples of how the slugfest of guitars and roughshod vocals don't make for innovative or even fun rock music. This stuff is just too one-dimensional, lo-fi and dull for my taste, but don't forget, UO got better by leaps and bounds on following CDs. Even the six-song Stull EP is worth checking out.