Urge Overkill built a following back in the '90s that was both anchored and poisoned by their contribution to Pulp Fiction, a cover of Neil Diamond's Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon. By the late '90s, the band had crashed and burned. They recovered for a resurrection tour in 2004. Now they're back with their first CD in 16 years, Rock&Roll Submarine.
The title seems appropriate for Urge Overkill to figuratively rise from the depths again. But Rock&Roll Submarine is best appreciated when the past is ignored, which seems to match Urge Overkill's attitude. For better or worse, the album is straightforward, dropping most of their posing, irony, and "cleverness". While Urge Overkill's spunk was part of their appeal, the sincere sound of Rock&Roll Submarine makes up for the loss.
The album's hard rock edge is a love letter to the same retro riff-driven rock that Spinal Tap mocked: a hearty serving of Blue Öyster Cult with chunks of Spirit and Cheap Trick. They spice it up with flashes of more modern older bands. The first single, Effigy is a great example of the more contemporary side, with an opening riff from The Pursuit of Happiness (I'm an Adult Now) that gets repurposed into an '80s hard rock sound redolent of Bon Jovi. It's satisfyingly hard, with ragged guitar stabs and a constant splash of cymbal.
The bulk of the songs are more like the opener, Mason/Dixon or my favorite, Little Vice: riff heavy, the throaty roar of muscular guitars, dark harmonized vocals, and pounding drums. Rock&Roll Submarine is a trip back to Urge Overkill's roots. It's not all overdrive, though. Thought Balloon tones down the edge and Quiet Person loses it completely. The simple acoustic figure and a bare bones brushed snare on Quiet Person offer a scaffold for the band's signature paired vocals. It's clean and sincere.
The song Rock&Roll Submarine asks the question: "Do I have to spell it out again/This time with attitude?" Instead, Urge Overkill have jettisoned the attitude for the balls out simplicity of rock. Grab a non-ironic American Lager and give it a listen.