I can’t tell you precisely how I came across URBN DK, but I’ve thought of them often since I first felt the creeping dread of “World Gone Crazy,” off the Chicagoland punk band’s 1982 self-titled seven-inch. URBN DK were hardly the only local punks to saturate their music with depravity—Deerfield’s the Mentally Ill, for instance, took punk shock tactics pretty far with their 1979 debut, Gacy’s Place, issued within a year of the serial killer’s arrest. But while that album’s lyrics wallow in evil like a pig in shit, the raw, rugged songs take the usual loud-fast approach—they’re only disturbing if you pay attention to what they say.
“World Gone Crazy,” on the other hand, begins with a turgid, scabrous mosh riff that erupts into an exhausting, spasmodic outburst. The music alone was almost enough to convince me that the members of URBN DK might actually be unwell—which I assume means they achieved what they set out to do. I can understand if you’re not interested in listening to a punk song whose lyrics spill a litany of human misery and savagery that could give you anxiety-induced acid reflux, but maybe that’s what you look for in punk. Maximum Rocknroll founder Tim Yohannan certainly appreciated it. In the zine’s third issue, he wrote that the EP “has very powerful, driving songs with doom-filled scenarios of the deterioration of human values. Unfortunately, it’s all too true—this is the real ‘horror rock.’”
Yohannan’s review is one of the few scraps of information I’ve found about URBN DK, most of it from zine scans available on the Internet Archive. The group’s entry at the Chicago Punk Database brings up even more questions. That site suggests that URBN DK had two incarnations (it was actually three) and three hometowns (it was actually two). They were based in Waukegan, Illinois, and then Kenosha, Wisconsin—the third address on the page, in Zion, Illinois, was just a post office box, and they never lived there.
I haven’t even heard the entirety of that debut seven-inch either, since the only song I could find online was a YouTube rip of “World Gone Crazy.” To listen to the other three tracks, I’d have to buy a copy of URBN DK off Discogs; currently the cheapest copy available domestically is $190, which is absolutely not in my budget.
Fortunately, another opportunity may be on the way. According to URBN DK founder and guitarist Bob Grundy, Milwaukee punk label Beer City Records has a compilation of the band’s discography in the works.
I reached Grundy by phone a couple weeks ago to learn more about his band’s history. An Illinois native reared on the blues, Grundy got hooked on punk when he moved to the Bay Area shortly after the Sex Pistols imploded at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in January 1978. “I felt the aftershocks of them being there,” Grundy says. He stuck around for a few years, but moved back to Waukegan in the early 1980s in search of work—and in search of people to play punk.
“It was really hard to find people who understood what I wanted to do,” Grundy says. “Chicago had a punk scene going, but it’s not practical to drive and do it. You need to do it with people in your area.” He managed to convince a few friends to play with him in the first of the three versions of URBN DK—he says he took the name from a song by a band he’d played in back in the Bay Area. (He claims that this band performed at Jello Biafra’s wedding reception, though the timing would’ve been tight—Biafra got married on Halloween in 1981, and URBN DK dropped their debut in 1982.)
While Grundy had decent luck recruiting bandmates, he had a much harder time finding opportunities to play URBN DK’s doom-and-gloom punk in front of other people. “Punk was pretty new in that area,” he says. “They didn’t know what to make of us—we never played in Waukegan.” Grundy says the band played Chicago on occasion, sometimes at DIY spaces whose names he can’t recall. The first version of URBN DK lasted three years.
The second version of URBN DK released the album Denial in 1993.
Grundy rebooted the band in the early 1990s with an entirely different lineup, which made more straightforward punk—he considers this the “rock ’n’ roll” incarnation. URBN DK 2.0 likewise lasted a few years, and they’ve got a couple releases on Bandcamp—including the 1993 album Denial, recorded by Steve Albini. In 1995, while Grundy was living in Kenosha, he formed the third and final version of URBN DK, a hardcore-inflected group that toured as far as Canada and released music on Beer City.
Grundy now lives in northwestern Wisconsin and devotes his creative energy to a bluesy hard-rock band called Lil Muddy. But his days in URBN DK aren’t far from his mind—especially with Beer City working on that reissue. “We have to make the order of it, we have to do some artwork, we have to write something about it,” he says. “There’s some work to do on that, but I’m happy to do it. And why not?”
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