In rotation: Material Issue’s ‘International Pop Overthrow 20th Anniversary Edition’

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The tragedy is that Material Issue ended before its time. The reality is that the suburban Chicago trio sometimes felt as if it belonged to a different era.


This 1991 debut arrived with its roots cemented in the grand Midwestern power-pop tradition of Cheap Trick, albeit with lean, finely ground riffs and a hearty dose of wry. When it came to subject matter, however, Material Issue stuck to the timeless rock ‘n’ roll topics. Or, to be more precise, one topic: girls.

Girls were causes of excitement, as noted by the feverish scream that signaled the guitars into gear on “Valerie Loves Me,” and girls were sources of misplaced nostalgia, as evidenced by the should-have-been-but-never-will-be bittersweet harmonies of “Renee Remains the Same.” Throughout, it wasn’t quite heartbreak that Jim Ellison sang of. His lyrics were too acute to succumb to any woe-is-me alt-rock clichés.

This reissue is limited to 5,000 copies and comes with eight extra tracks. The band released only four proper albums because Ellison committed suicide in June 1996. But one needn’t stick around to make a lasting impression. Ellison knew this, and on the previously unreleased “The Girl with the Saddest Eyes,” he sings, “If she says goodbye, well, that’s better still.”

Material Issue
“International Pop Overthrow 20th Anniversary Edition”


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— Todd Martens