Urge Overkill's "Positive Bleeding" CD single.
Urge Overkill was formed in Chicago by Nash Kato (vocals/guitar) and Eddie “King” Roeser (vocals/guitar/bass), who met at Northwestern University in 1985. They formed Urge Overkill the following year with drummer Pat Byrne, and released an EP, “Strange, I…” (1986) on Ruthless Records. The EP was produced by Kato’s friend Steve Albini. Kriss Bataille replaced Pat Byrne on drums, and Urge Overkill signed with Touch and Go Records. They released their first full length album, “Jesus Urge Superstar” (1989), again produced by Albini. Both their initial EP and “Superstar” featured a noise-rock sound common to other Chicago acts of the period. Their next album, “Americruiser” (1990), in which Jack “The Jaguar” Watt replaced Bataille on drums, saw a shift in style to “a Stonesy fusion of arena rock and punk”. The album was produced by Butch Vig and featued the college radio hit “Ticket to L.A.”. Watt left the band and was replaced by Blackie Onassis for their next album, “The Supersonic Storybook” (1991). A mainstream breakthrough seemed inevitable as the band opened for Nirvana on their “Nevermind” tour and for Pearl Jam on their “Vs.” tour. They released an EP, “Stull” (1992), before signing with Geffen Records. Their jump to the majors angered the whole label, particularly their old producer Steve Albini, who publicly criticized the band in several interviews. Nevertheless, their Geffen debut, “Saturation” (1993), which was produced by the Butcher Bros., received strong reviews upon its release in June 1993. The third single from this album, “Positive Bleeding”/”Quality Love”/”Nite and Grey”, is today’s featured single.
“Positive Bleeding” is a prime example of Urge Overkill’s then-new, more commercial direction in practice. Starting off with a catchy riff punctuated by some punchy drum fills (accompanied by a sitar for musical texture), which is soon accompanied by Kato’s vocals: “Hey! Look around today/Everything don’t need to be the same./Feel. I’m feelin, lonely people/People just like me who go it alone/I guess I’m gonna go it alone”. The way Kato’s guitar follows his vocals ascending and descending during the chorus is memorable (punctuated by his “hoo-hoo-hoo” at the end of every line). While the band’s musical landscape is bare-boned, they make the most of it on this track, with catchy hooks that justify its release as a single. As a nod to their origins as a noise rock band, we get a weird, atonal coda with what sounds like backward masking. Overall, “Positive Bleeding” is arguably the best of the four singles from “Saturation”.
“Quality Love (Hong Kong Demo)” is a non-album single which also doubled as the “B-side” of the “Dropout” CD single (I guess the group didn’t have a lot of extra songs to serve as B-sides back then). We get a catchy tune about a man who wants “something more than fast action guaranteed” (i.e. “quality love”). I like the distorted guitar on this track, which figures prominently during a very brief instrumental break which takes place 1 minute and 45 minutes into the track. This song also distinguishes itself with an interesting coda, the music stopping about 2 minutes and 50 seconds into the song for a full seconds, before returning with a funky bass line and Kato singing “quality love – believe it”, once again punctuating his chorus with a “hoo-hoo-hoo”, before fading out completely. This track is probably not of much interest to casual fans, but was an interesting track nonetheless.
U.K. release of "Positive Bleeding" single (with "Nite and Grey" on the B-side but without "Quality Love") on red vinyl.
The third track on this single, “Nite and Grey”, is another track from “Saturation”. It is about someone who “was set up”; the song’s protagonist urges the person to “[l]et us help you get them”. The chorus is catchy (“Night and day/Night and grey/This is the last time/This is the last time”), and the coda, which consists of a simple melody repeated monotonously over someone saying “[i]s he on the clock or off the clock”, takes up the last minute of the track. The guitars sound crisper than on some of the other tracks on the album, and provides an interesting contrast with the somewhat more commercial-sounding “Postiive Bleeding”.
The single (catalog #: GEFDM 21864) was released in March 1994 on Geffen Records. Although “Positive Bleeding” became a minor radio hit and other tracks from “Saturation” received significant airplay, the album did not provide the breakthrough for which the group had hoped. In the meantime, the band became the target of a few anti-Urge campaigns in the indie rock underground. Still the band forged ahead, and while recording a follow-up to “Saturation”, they recorded a track for the “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack, a cover version of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”. The movie became an unexpected hit, and “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” reached the Top 50 in the Billboard Hot 100. The band thus had high hopes for their next album, “Exit the Dragon” (1995), but the first single, “The Break”, flopped, and the following tour, which took place in the fall of 1995, proved a disaster, with the opening act, Guided By Voices, being kicked off amidst much controversy just a few weeks into the tour. A few weeks later, the remaining concerts were cancelled altogether and never rescheduled. Blackie Onassis was arrested for heroin possession towards the end of the year. No charges were pressed and the incident was kept quiet, but the album was a commercial failure. In the aftermath, Urge Overkill was reduced to continuing as a duo consisting of Kato and Roeser, and the band left Geffen Records for 550 Music in early 1997. Kato and Roeser began feuding, which resulted in Roeser leaving the band. Roeser was replaced by Nils St. Cyr, but 550 Music was unhappy with the results, and dropped Urge Overkill from the label. At this point, the group disbanded, with Kato pursuing a solo career. In 2004, Kato and Roeser reunited and formed a new Urge Overkill lineup with Mike “Hadji” Hodgkiss on bass, Chris Frantisak on keyboards, and Nate Arling on drums, later replaced by Brian “Bonn” Quast. The band played several dates and toured Europe, North America and Australia. In May 2011, the band released “Rock and Roll Submarine”, on OU Records, their first album of new material in over fifteen years.