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International Pop Overthrow 20th Anniversary Edition

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Album Review

A title like International Pop Overthrow suggests a far more revolutionary and ambitious approach than what Material Issue actually served up on their first album — Jim Ellison doesn't sound like he wants to take over the world so much as he wants (a) a girl to like him, and (b) three-minute pop songs to regain their rightful place on the radio (which, come to think of it, was a fairly revolutionary notion in 1991). Singer/songwriter and guitarist Ellison, and partners Ted Ansani on bass and Mike Zelenko on drums, sound like power pop classicists, worshiping at the altar of Big Star, the Raspberries, and the Scruffs, though Ellison's melodies are leaner and more direct than those of his obvious inspirations, and his willingness to turn up the tempos and let the guitars distort reminds all listeners that punk-influenced good pop is as vital as pop-influenced good punk. ("Trouble" and the title cut also confirm that Ellison occasionally thought about subjects other than girls.) The production by Jeff Murphy (whose band Shoes was doubtless another key influence on MI's sound) is clean and uncluttered, but maybe a bit too much so — while nothing gets in the band's way, the group rarely displays as much power as it deserves to, and the boomy sound could stand to be balanced with a bit more top-end crunch (especially on the hard-driving title track, which does feature the album's best line: "I don't need a girlfriend, I need an accomplice"). But anyone who was looking for the future of power pop in 1991 might well have imagined these guys were it, and not without reason — International Pop Overthrow is smart, hooky, and not afraid to sound edgy or let the amps go into the red.

[The 20th Anniversary edition of International Pop Overthrow is expanded to two discs with the second CD containing several outtakes from the album's sessions, including the songs that showed up on the Eleven Super Sonic Hit Explosions promo EP, plus the previously unreleased "The Girl with the Saddest Eyes."]


Formed: 1986 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '80s, '90s

Chicago power pop trio Material Issue married the tight and melodic commercial appeal of acts like Cheap Trick and the Knack with the jangly guitars and cockiness of early-'90s Britpop. Formed in the late '80s as a songwriting vehicle for guitarist/lead singer Jim Ellison, the band included bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko. In 1987, after doing time in and around the Windy City club scene, the group released an eponymous EP that resulted in a contract with Mercury Records. Their major-label...
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International Pop Overthrow 20th Anniversary Edition, Material Issue
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