Urge Overkill: “Positive Bleeding”
For a short while in the early ’90s, Urge Overkill were kings of the ironic rock gesture: even though they weren’t stars yet, they acted like they were, dressing and behaving on stage as though they were playing a huge arena rather than a dingy nightclub. I saw them live a couple of times, and you would have thought they were indeed playing for thousands, not hundreds. They started out prior to that as a very-good-but-not-yet-great indie rock band, with a rougher, lo-fi sound, but when they hit upon their more theatrical approach, they took the music with them. The songs became big, pseudo-dramatic productions…but rocked harder than ever in the process. Even their names sounded like they were stars: Nash Kato, “King” Roeser, and Blackie Onassis. All of this was very tongue-in-cheek, but apparently not everyone got the joke, and, for various reasons, the group ultimately fell apart despite their best albums coming out during that period: The Supersonic Storybook, Stull, Saturation, and Exit the Dragon. (They’ve just released a new reunion album, Rock & Roll Submarine, that I haven’t heard yet, but I’m looking forward to checking it out soon…maybe right after I finish this post.)
Of all their albums, I think the most consistently great is 1993’s Saturation — it was their huge rock move, which judging by the music alone should have made them the rock stars they envisioned themselves as. It sounded big, full of great songs influenced equally by the mid-’70s guitar rock of bands like Thin Lizzy and the late ’70s punk of bands like The Jam, and simply rocked from beginning to end. “Sister Havana” was the lead single from the album, getting the most airplay, but my favorite song from the album is probably “Positive Bleeding.” Its mix of big ’70s-style guitar, big drum beats, and sitar-like acoustic guitar make for a bigger-than-life anthem that would be all over classic-rock radio now had it actually been released in the ’70s minus the aura of irony around the band. (Have I used the term “big” enough yet? It’s how it all sounds, and clearly how they wanted it to be.)
The video they released for the song shows “the Urge” in all their pseudo-rock star glory, complete with arena-rock moves and spiritual guru — but with many obvious visual jokes scattered throughout, so that no one thinks they’re taking the whole thing as seriously as they might make it appear.