Nearly a decade and a half ago, Chicago's Urge Overkill followed suit and then broke rank with the prevailing alternative attitude by blatantly pursuing stardom. Leaving behind the busy noise pop that was the fashion at Touch and Go Records in order to give homage to ballsy '70s rock, Urge Overkill had the necessary components, but couldn't sustain a drive. UO's spooky version of Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" hit as unexpectedly as Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, which tapped the track for the movie. With that, UO's major label debut should have been the turning point, but Saturation, and its relative hit "Sister Havana," never delivered the figures or got the respect it deserved. When Saturation's follow-up, Exit the Dragon, met a worse fate, Geffen dropped the band, and internal strife sent it into rock purgatory. Getting signed and dropped by Sony in 1997 was the last straw, and Urge Overkill was no more. Former UO singer-guitarist Nash Kato has spent the last three years contemplating those events and working on his solo debut, Debutante, which has finally been released after a number of delays. Kato may have been gunshy after the last UO albums, but the solid songcraft and pure execution of Debutante prove conclusively that he had nothing to worry about. Anyone put off by UO's obvious attempts to gain favor by aligning itself with the '70s may not care for this, but Kato so magnificently appreciates the glammy period overtones in his own work that it's criminal to fault him on his loves. Kato invests Debutante with a relentless atmosphere, from the glam-fueled Mott-fest of "Queen of the Gangstas" to the pop charge of "Octoroon" and "Cradle Robbers." When Kato slows things down, there's still an amazingly energized undercurrent, especially on the Steely Dan-like pop/jazz track "Black Satin Jacket" and the disc's swaggering closer, "Blue Wallpaper." Kato's lyrical prowess is equally impressive, particularly on the pop culture roll call that he spins on "Born in the Eighties." With a penchant for Dolls/Mott/Bowie hooks, a contemporarily smartass mouth, and an attitude to match, Kato clearly understands the difference between respecting the past and living in it.
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