Thursday, May 03, 2007

International Pop Overthrow

True confession: in 1994, when I heard the news that Kurt Cobain had killed himself, I didn't feel much of anything. Not because he was just "another dead doper," as human slime Rush Limbaugh said earlier of Jerry Garcia, and not because I was on the wrong side of a musical generation gap (although obviously I wasn't exactly Nirvana's demographic), but rather because it was just so predictable. Cobain had been The Voice of a Generation Most Likely to Be Stilled for so long that his actual death, for me at least, was largely anti-climactic.

Three years later, however, when I heard that Cobain's contemporary Jim Ellison, the ebullient frontman for Chicago popsters Material Issue had committed suicide, I felt genuine sadness. How did someone whose public personna and music mostly seemed so full of the sheer joy of being alive reach such a despairing point? It seemed, both then and now, inexplicable.

I bring all this up because I stumbled across the Ish's wonderful video for "What Girls Want" the other day, and was charmed all over again. The sentiments are adorable to be sure, but I think what I most like is how when Ellison sings the line about Keith Richard's stagger, the music seems to go all wobbly.

You can almost imagine Captain Jack Sparrow making a cameo appearance.


NYMary said...

As you know, both Material Issue albums were produced by Jeff Murphy, with whom Ellison apparently had a pretty public split, and about whom he had some pretty nasty things to say. In a 2004 interview, however, Murphy said that before Ellison died, they made it up.

It was my very first blog post, lo these many years ago.

steve simels said...

I was waiting for you to bring up Jeff.

Didn't know he was your first post, though.

NYMary said...

Oh, and another weird Nirvana/Material Issue connection: When Jeff was working on the second MI album, he got a call from Butch Vig, who he'd known since Shoes produced his first record in 82 or thereabouts (Spooner). He was a producer himself at that point, and wanted Jeff's advice about what happens when a major label picks up an indie production.

He was working on Nevermind.


Anonymous said...

I was really glad to see Material Issue before Jim died. I think I have an autographed set list from their last-ever show at the old 9:30 Club somewhere.

Have you checked out Everybody Else? They remind me a lot of Material Issue.

steve simels said...

May I just say that I'm still in shock over KCs Los Shakers post downstairs?

Great song, amazing clip, and I'd never heard of them.

Anonymous said...

And, of course, there's a kick-ass celebration of power pop named in honor of that great record of theirs, The International Pop Overthrow Festival. I just saw a the friday 4.20 show featuring The Ladies and Gentleman, with Mike Zelenko on drums and The Ted Ansani Project. Whatta great show featuring Zelenko and Ansani teaming up for "Diane" and "Kim the Waitress".

The show moves to Minneapolis this weekend, although with local bands. Don't miss out!!

Kid Charlemagne said...

Can I add my seven degrees of Material Issue separation?

I am a HUGE Green Pajamas fan (obscure 80s Seattle psych-pop band). MI of course covered their great indy single "Kim the Waitress" on "Freak City Soundtrack."

Over and out.

Zoooma said...

Holy crap, Material Issue's lead singer offed himself? That sucks. And how come no one told me?! They were a cool band. I remember 'em way back 'round late 80's->1990 and '91... pretty good stuff.