Friday, August 12, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 236 - Material Issue - International Pop Overthrow

By: March

Album – International Pop Overthrow
Artist – Material Issue
Key Players – Ted Ansani – bass, vocals. Jim Ellison – guitars, lead vocals. Mike Zelenko – drums.

Produced By – Material Issue and Jeff Murphy

Release Date – February 5, 1991

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I actually read on another blog how vastly under rated this band is/was and it got me to thinking I needed to go back to see for myself.

Overview – This was the debut album from Chicago power pop band “Material Issue”. The band formed in 1985 and would form in college and release an ep before recording this debut full length. The label reportedly didn't expect it to sell too well, but it would sell about 180,000 copies in the US and would reach number 86 on the Billboard charts. The band would release two more full length records to even less fanfare and they'd be dropped by the label. They'd garner a strong reputation for their live shows and their hard work seemed to be turning things around with new material and a hopeful new deal. Sadly Ellison committed suicide in June of 1996.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – The album starts with the bands highest charting single in “Valerie Loves Me”. The song would hit #3 on the Modern Rock charts. Opening with a lone guitar before Zelenko comes in with Ansani. The bass and drums have a light pop bounce to them and Ellison begins to sing. It has a little UK pop band vibe to it, as the verse comes towards an end the band gets urgent and they return to the simple, more calm back beat. They do this leading in to the chorus when Ellison screams the song title. They like to do the quiet to loud bit a few times, each coming off the verse and before the chorus is shouted. “Diane”, the second of three songs in a row with a woman's name in it, again starts with the guitar before Ansani really comes up on the bass. Ellison has a scowl to his voice while it still keeps the light heartedness. This track seems to be a little bit easier on the ears than the first for its pop/radio friendly aspect. This track was also released as a single from the record. Ansani and Ellison have good harmonies and there is a short instrumental break after the second verse, but no real flashy guitar. The chorus is one of those easy to sing along to anthems sure to have you clapping along (or tapping your feet at the very least). The third song with a female name in the title comes in “Renee Remains the Same”. Once again, a single guitar starts the track off before the bass and drums. Ansani has a strong stroke on the bass and Zelenko is careful to not open up too much on the drum line. The guitar has a great sound to it and the band is very tight. The band is quickly establishing its sound and pop sensibility. There is not a lot to be bummed out about on this record. “This Letter” seems to pull some acoustic guitar and is a little more laid back than the other tracks up to this point. The backing vocals and drums are much more in the mix on this. The drums are struck hard but within the context of the track. The guitar(s) compliment the range that Ellison works to push. The harmonies later in the track are once more strong and Zelenko is hard at work on the percussive instruments. After a quick short drum burst “Out Right Now” comes right in with the vocals. Ellison seems to be spirited in his delivery here and the song has a quicker vocal delivery. He gets aggressive at the chorus, but it is more an urgent push than “anger” if that makes any sort of sense. The mix on this track (and the record) is very good, the subtle shake of the tambourine is just as high in the mix as the bass and guitar. We are also in and out of the song in under 2 minutes. “Crazy” has the big dueling stadium rock sounding guitar as the vocals come in. Ansani has a strong bass line that punches at the right time while Zelenko continues to shine on the drums. Ellison and Ansani harmonize nicely at the chorus as the song keeps its wonderful pop bounce for the duration. Ellison has about as big a guitar solo as he has had. It is nothing flashy at all, and once again the band uses the right balance with the length of it before coming back in for another round of the chours. “Chance of a Lifetime” is a little more dark feeling and Zelenko and Ansani set the tone. The drums are choppy, at a marching band tempo. The harmonies are very strong at the chorus with the highs and lows more extreme than they have been. You can really hear the band break things apart vocally. Once again Ellison has a run on the guitar and the band is a bit more frantic here. It is a nice change for the band, and again they know the right time to switch back to the poppy chorus. The title track, “International Pop Overthrow” follows and it has almost a “Ramones” feel at the start. Everyone is firing off one another and the vocals seem a little compressed and distorted some. It is a pop/punk track without a doubt and the repetition of the chorus I find simply charming. We lay it back some on “Very First Lie”. Acoustic guitars come out and Zelenko finds comfort on the rim of his snare. It is not a ballad, but it is a heartfelt song, as you can tell by the way the lyrics are delivered. The band gets a little antsy and rock out more about 1:40 in and it gets a bit more urgent. The drums are higher in the mix to push it along but Ellison has struck a chord and lays it all out there. Ellison opens “Trouble” with some big pop power chords before Ansani and Zelenko kick it in to higher gear. At this point I realize that Ellison is one of those singers, that you might not see as being “excellent” but for what he does in the context of the tunes is perfect. He seems to understand the right range to go, and I never hear him strain to get to a particular range. The song is a straight up rocker with a burst of guitar for good measure. “There Was A Few” finds Ellison right up on the vocals from the start. Everyone seems to be a little more in the background with their instruments at the start. The guitar is not flashy and the drums don't overpower. The band was looked at as a version of the “Replacements” and that seems to hold true on the pop punk “This Far Before”. The guitars and bass just chop in to you and the drums drive right at you. The harmonies continue to be very strong, they have this down. We go a little mellow again on “A Very Good Idea” which is strumming guitar chords from Ellison with a very simple Zelenko drum part put down. The lead up to the chorus is nice and the bass of Ansani starts to swell up wonderfully, a mellow track as noted, but far from a “ballad”. “Lil Christine” is a rocking album closer with Ellison slicing across the strings for a few bars at the intro and having the bass and drums come right in. A strong album closer showing off all the elements that make the record so strong, the harmonies and most notably the fine playing from each member.

Where are they now? - After Ellisons death in 1996 what was recorded by the band was released as “Telecommando Americano” in 1997. Ansani still works in the music business, released solo work and played with many bands. Zelenko also still performs most recently linked to a band called “The Ladies and Gentlemen”. In 2011 Zelenko and Ansani reformed the band for one show as “Material Re-Issue” to celebrate the 20th anniversary of IPO. The gig went well enough the band was slated to play again in June of 2011. There is a music festival named in honor of this album as well. (See links)

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I never saw the band live.

FDF Overall Take – So, are they under rated? I will have to say yes, but not WILDLY under rated. It is not criminal that people may not know who they are, but if you like pop/punk, pop rock with that 90's alternative feel you will be right at home. The harmonies are really strong, and they are very full sounding for a trio. I enjoyed going back to this record and I am sure I'll dust off the others to just listen while they are on the brain.

Link to the festival in the albums name

Curious? Check out some music:

Cool clip/story on the 20th Anniversary


At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Alexander said...

I barely remember them. But I wasn't very impressed by them.


Post a Comment

<< Home