Artist Biography by James Christopher Monger
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 debut, the rock-solid International Pop Overthrow, found itself a place on modern rock radio with the raucous single "Valerie Loves Me," and thrust the group to the front of the burgeoning alternative rock movement. Produced by ex-Shoes member Jeff Murphy, the album's electrifying blend of teen angst and rock & roll confidence won over critics and fans alike, resulting in the band's immediate return to the studio to craft their follow-up, 1992's Destination Universe. Once again produced by Murphy, DU didn't sell nearly as well, despite being almost identical to their impressive debut.
In 1994 the band released the excellent -- and sadly underrated -- Freak City Soundtrack. Produced by Mike Chapman (Blondie, the Knack, Sweet) and featuring a guest appearance by Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, it seemed that Ellison and crew could do no wrong in critics' eyes, yet the public remained oblivious, prompting their inevitable departure from Mercury. Polygram put out the live album Goin' Through Your Purse that same year, and the band began recording what was to become their final album. Telecommando Americano was released posthumously by Rykodisc in 1997, just one year after Jim Ellison committed suicide in his garage by poisoning himself with the carbon monoxide from his moped.