The final recordings by Chicago's Material Issue, Telecommando
Americano, will be released in late May. The album, recorded between
mid-1995 and early-1996, was finished except for the mixing before band leader
Jim Ellison' took his own life on June 21, 1996.
Anybody who saw the
Chicago band Material Issue in their power-popping prime could tell you that
the group's Cheap Trick-inspired hard pop sound and attitude was ten times
bigger than their album sales or notoriety. Material Issue may not have been
the brightest stars on the fertile early '90s Chicago scene, but they played
and acted like it and a handful of their catchiest songs ("Valerie Loves Me,"
"Diane," "Kim the Waitress") could have belonged to a world-renowned band.
At the time of his death, Ellison and company had already recorded the
follow-up to 1994's Freak City Soundtrack, although they were without a
record deal. Now Rykodisc has compiled the final 11 Material Issue songs with
six songs from the band's first EP, 1987's Material Issue EP for release
on Telecommando Americano (May 20). The EP was previously available only
on hard-to-find vinyl.
Ironically, the period just prior to his death was
one of the busiest for Ellison. He had recorded an excellent song with Liz
Phair entitled "Rocket Boy," which was on the Stealing Beauty soundtrack
and had been collaborating with her on more material. He'd also been jamming
with an all-star group called the Wild Bunch, which included Chip Z'nuff (Enuff
'Z Nuff), Gilby Clark of G'N'R, former Psychedelic Furs drummer Mars Williams,
Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens, and Blondie drummer Clem Burke.
to the Rykodisc source, the two remaining members of MI have moved on and begun
work with several other bands. Drummer Mike Zelenko has been playing with Scat
Records' Specula, in addition to playing live with the Chicago band Hummer.
Bassist Ted Ansani has also been playing live with Hummer and has joined
Chicago's Teenage Frames, who's punk/pop stylings are at times even more
infectious than MI's. Fans of the St. Louis power pop 'zine Yellow Pills
might want to check out the latest YP compilation (early June) on Big Deal
Records, which features an MI cover of the Grass Roots' "A Million