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Material Issue: Telecommando Americano

Album: Telecommando Americano
Label: Rykodisc

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The Chicago power-pop band Material Issue never sold records the way it should have, but the trio's three previously available albums—International Pop Overthrow, Destination Universe, and Freak City Soundtrack—remain impossibly catchy and filled with bittersweet pop beauty. The group disbanded last summer following the shocking suicide of frontman Jim Ellison, and the events surrounding Material Issue's demise add a layer of tragedy to albums that shouldn't seem tragic. Which is too bad; it's hard to listen to Telecommando Americano, the band's final album, without feeling, well, sad. But it does a disservice to Ellison and the surviving band members to view Material Issue's records as anything but profoundly enjoyable, if occasionally melancholy, power-pop, music which somehow transcends unmistakable nods to Cheap Trick and a thousand glammy new-wave bands. The 11 new songs here lack the production sheen that can usually be found on finished material; Ellison died before finishing touches like mixing were applied, and it shows. But songs like "What If I Killed Your Boyfriend" are stellar in any form, and while Telecommando only delivers one of the beautiful ballads that were becoming a specialty ("Carousel"), the inclusion of Material Issue's previously vinyl-only 1987 six-song EP helps complete this decidedly necessary package. It's a collection to be celebrated, even if the circumstances that surround it couldn't be worse.