May 9, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Material Issue

I discovered Material Issue in 1991 along with everyone else. By that time the band had already been honing their modish power pop around Chicago and the midwest for a number of years. The initial album, Internationa Pop Overthrow, set the tone that alternative power pop bands would follow for the rest of the decade. It had a nice blend of jangline, ringing, and crashing guitars, as best shown on "Valerie Loves Me". Material Issue took their sixties and seventies influences and instead of writing derivative pop in the same vein as so many other bands of the day, they reinterpreted the sound and moved the whole genre of power pop forward, much as The Smithereens were doing at nearly the same time. Unlike the Smithereens who favored a more mainstream pop sound, Material Issue loved to string together heavier, more alterantive yet catchy hooks in one song along with very memorable melodies, such as with "Out Right Now".

The band went on to produce five albums, the last posthumously. Lead singer, and the band's creative heart and soul, Jim Ellison committed suicide in 1996 leaving behind a nearly finished album. Interestingly, the band's later releases moved away from the first album, which was their most sixties influenced and had the most mod friendly sound of their releases. Yet, the final album Telecomanda Americano brought their sound full circle and seemed to be headed back in the direction of International Pop Overthrow.

The song here, "Somethings Happened to Catherine", is one of their heaviest. It was never released on any of their albums to the best of my knowledge. Rather it was one of a handful of singles the band released and which appeared on various volumes of the Yellow Pills compilations.

Material Issue -- Somethings Happened to Catherine

Material Issue -- Diane