Material Issue | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Material Issue 

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Material Issue's Jim Ellison, the ingenuous kid from Addison, finally got what he wanted: a big advance (in the six figures), a record produced his way (by Jeff Murphy of Shoes, up at his studio in Zion), and backing from a big label (Mercury). The grandiloquently titled result, International Pop Overthrow, isn't bad: resolutely modeled on the work of midwestern pop legends like Cheap Trick and Shoes, it's full of good songs even if the band sometimes misses the point (there's none of that Rick Neilsen sarcasm that gave Cheap Trick such an edge, and there's too much Shoesian prissiness for my taste). But there's a charm to its unapologetically retro production, harmonies, subject matter; the band is looking for a hit the old-fashioned way, by writing and playing hummable songs and hoping kids'll pick up on their simple pleasures. And that's the crapshoot that gives the band's record-release party tonight a little poignancy. Maybe a single will be a hit; maybe a single would have been a hit if a key program director in LA had been in a better mood one day (or if the promo man had just produced another half gram). In six months, maybe Rolling Stone will run a bigger, even sillier-looking picture of the band than the one in this week's issue; or maybe by then Mercury will be infatuated with three other mop-heads from, say, Kansas City. Of course the odds are against Material Issue. The point is that Ellison's finally getting his shot. He deserves it. Saturday, Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison; 327-1662 or 477-7469.

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