July 16, 2006

Records You Should Own

When people discuss the whole "Chicago rock" movement of the late 1980s/early 1990s, mention is made of the usual suspects - the Neil Diamond-obsessed Urge Overkill, Guyville exile Liz Phair, and the extremely melodramatic Smashing Pumpkins. However, Material Issue - a band which opened for the Replacements' last show in Grant Park on July 4, 1991 - gets lost in the shuffle.

Well, that's going to change, because Material Issue's International Pop Overthrow is July's "Record You Should Own."

If your Green Days/Blink 182s/pop-punk band of the month had any sense, they would listen to this record non-stop. Jim Ellison wrote the kind of instantly catchy, can't-get-that-riff-out-of-your-head songs that were tailor-made for radio. Add that to the killer rhythm section of Ted Asani and Mike Zelenko, and Material Issue's ambitiously titled first album will convince you of the power of pop.

The album begins with a potent one-two-three punch: the jangly, moody "Valerie Loves Me"; the balls-out "Diane", and the hooky "Renee Remains the Same" set the tone. Even though there are some slightly cliche affectations (naming songs after girls names, a false British accent in one song, and the execrable "letter/better" rhyme scheme of one song), the music is just too damn catchy to complain. Personal highlights: the above three, along with "The Very First Lie", "International Pop Overthrow" and "There Was A Few".

As one of Lefty Brown's top 10 musical gurus, it is my job to make sure that good music does not go unnoticed. Although Material Issue released three albums (including one compiled after the band met a tragic end), this is the one with the most listenability. (Plus, you can always check out the other two albums later)

But don't take my word for it - buy it. Listen repeatedly. You'll thank me later.

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