Material Issue – International Pop Overthrow: 20th Anniversary Edition (1991; 2011 reissue)

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by Beverly Paterson

Originally released on Mercury Records in the spring of 1991, “International Pop Overthrow” marked the debut album by Material Issue, a Chicago, Illinois-based trio featuring lead singer and guitarist Jim Ellison, bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko. Specializing in power pop, the band had already established themselves as a force to be dealt with prior to the birth of their first album. Their gigs were always a joy to behold — and an EP, simply coined Material Issue, from 1987, drew piles of praise. So, by the time International Pop Overthrow emerged, expectations were running awfully high. Thankfully, the disc met such lofty expectations and then some.

The term power pop has been tossed around so much that it eventually lost its true meaning in the process. But Material Issue played genuine power pop. The band’s approach was traditional and straightforward. Void of gimmicks or trendy thrills, Material Issue produced the kind of tight, brisk three-minute nuggets that once occupied the radio dial. Yet the band was no retro act, as their sound was fresh and contemporary. Nods and winks to godfathers of the genre like the Sweet, Raspberries, Cheap Trick, the Jags and the Knack may surface here and there, but all told, Material Issue attacked and mounted their catchy songs in a thoroughly fresh manner, propelled by a punky angle and plenty of youthful hunger.

Swamped with infectious sing-a-long choruses, troves of tugging hooks and glistening arrangements, “Valerie Loves Me,” “Diane,” “Chance Of A Lifetime” and “Renee Remains The Same” are only a few of the highlights heard on this classic record, reissued last spring in honor of its 20th anniversary by Hip-O-Select. Drafted of optimistic lyrics, the title track of the album is another stone-cold winner, as it buzzes with confidence, informing the listener Material Issue was dead set on bringing the world to its knees with their power pop pizzazz. Although the band was known and applauded for concocting melodic guitar rockers, they were comparably adept at handling slower numbers. Tender and romantic, “The Letter” is an example of their forte for ballads. A clutch of bonus cuts cement the collection, most notably “The Girl With The Saddest Eyes“ and “She’s Going Through My Head.” Wall to wall with perfectly realized power pop precision, “International Pop Overthrow: 20th Anniversary Edition” captures a band on a serious mission, poised to grab the brass ring.

Unfortunately, Material Issue suffered tragedy. The band’s subsequent discs, Destination Universe and the Freak City soundtrack were excellent, but in June of 1996 Jim Ellison committed suicide, closing the door forever on what could have been. A full-length album, Telecommando Americano, hit the bins a year later and an anthology of their stuff is available as well. Staunchly dedicated to the style of music they hawked, Material Issue not only crafted a memorable catalog of top-flight power pop songs, but influenced a host of musicians to follow in their footsteps. A band never to be forgotten …

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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