Urge Overkill At The Black Cat, April 27, 2008

Part of the draw of this show was the probability that this band was still a mess, that I’d get to see them fall apart on stage and I could have a good laugh. But really, the hope was that they’d play the kind of punky-yet-arena-worthy-and-still-trashy power pop they mastered in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The kind of rock that had so many people with an ear underground thinking they were the next big thing in rock music when they did get a major label deal during the alternative rock explosion. Though the band harnessed that energy of its youth, it didn’t bother to play many of those old songs.

In a way, that was an eye opener. Unfortunately, this band is best known for its cover of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” a song off the 1992 “Stull EP” that originally was just a tossed off cover but later became a noteworthy single after it was featured in Uma Thurman’s overdose scene in “Pulp Fiction.” That’s probably what killed the band. It really wasn’t their kind of music or their style, but it earned them a new audience — while alienating some of the old audience — that their first DGC album didn’t. Of course, the following album, “Exit the Dragon,” didn’t capture the new fans the way “Girl” did, and they revolted, and its cleaner sound alienated even more members of the old audience, and the band was essentially dead on its release. But the songwriting on the album was terrific.

That became clear on stage at the Black Cat 13 years later. While UO ignored most of their early material, they played the latter stuff with the raw energy and snarl of their youth. It was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. The band was tight, heavy and catchy, as well as witty. Singer/guitarist Nash Kato remarked that back in the day they were familiar with a D.C. response of “are these guys on crack?” an obvious and easy jab at the straight-edge scene, but one that was well played in light of UO’s history of destructive excesses. “Ian MacKaye’s passed out downstairs,” Kato joked.

The band promised a new record in the works, and hopefully they do it right. That is, the way they started. Maybe the window is still open for this to band to be the next big thing in rock.

–Matthew Stabley, Music Snob


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