Rolling Stone - 2/21/91
"...bold, brash and maddeningly tuneful."
Spin - p.76
"[W]ith frontman Jim Ellison's impassioned songs and simpatico production from Shoes' Jeff Murphy, the band's debut album sold briskly..."
Personnel: Jim Ellison (vocals, guitar); Ted Ansani (vocals, background vocals); Mike Zelenko (drums).
Recording information: Short Order Recording, Zion, IL.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Dan Thompson; Lance Tawzer; Danny Thompson .
A title like International Pop Overthrow suggests a far more revolutionary and ambitious approach than what Material Issue actually served up on its first album -- Jim Ellison doesn't sound like he wants to take over the world so much as he wants (a) a girl to like him, and (b) three-minute pop songs to regain their rightful place on the radio (which, come to think of it, was a fairly revolutionary notion in 1991). Singer/songwriter and guitarist Ellison and partners Ted Ansani on bass and Mike Zelenko on drums sound like power pop classicists, worshiping at the altar of Big Star, the Raspberries, and the Scruffs, though Ellison's melodies are leaner and more direct than those of his obvious inspirations, and his willingness to turn up the tempos and let the guitars distort serves as a reminder that punk influenced good pop as much as pop influenced good punk. ("Trouble" and the title cut also confirm that Ellison occasionally thought about subjects other than girls.) The production by Jeff Murphy (whose band Shoes was doubtless another key influence on MI's sound) is clean and uncluttered, but maybe a bit too much so -- while nothing gets in the band's way, the group rarely displays as much power as it deserves, and the boomy sound could stand to be balanced with a bit more top-end crunch (especially on the hard-driving title track, which does feature the album's best line -- "I don't need a girlfriend, I need an accomplice"). But anyone who was looking for the future of power pop in 1991 might well have imagined these guys were it, and not without reason -- International Pop Overthrow is smart, hooky, and not afraid to sound edgy or let the amps go into the red. ~ Mark Deming