Sunday, January 25, 2009

“I get a funny feeling”

I was just eating dinner, reading /Film, and listening to iTunes on shuffle. I stopped momentarily, thinking "Holy shit, this is really good." And yes, I was at least partially reacting to some good Gilliam news (of which there has been quite a bit lately), but no, that wasn't really what gave me pause. The song playing on iTunes was big, anthemic, and extremely catchy. I looked and saw that it was "The Fan" by Material Issue, off their 1994 album Freak City Soundtrack.

As I recall, I bought a used copy of Freak City Soundtrack about a year and a half go as part of a 3-CDs-for-$10 deal, and never really gave the album that much attention. I listened to a few songs, but never paid much attention to it. After hearing "The Fan" I turned shuffle off and listened to the album in its entirety while I finished dinner.

Freak City Soundtrack is filled with fantastic power pop. The entire album is quintessential power pop, loud and fast guitars speeding through pop songs overflowing with infectious hooks. The best songs on the album celebrate feelings of unrequited love. And I do mean celebrate. There is no sad bastard moping to be found, instead the songs rejoice in the nervous excitement one feels when they've met someone new.

This nervous excitement, whether represented in the lyrics or not, permeates the album. You get the impression that lead singer and main songwriter Jim Ellison is the kind of guy who's sort of nerdy, awkward, and much cooler than he thinks he is, and that impression is exactly what comes across in the music. In this respect, he sounds like the bridge between power pop pioneers like Cheap Trick and later bands like Weezer, who found much more success just a few years later.

Material Issue does sound distinctly 90s, which can make them sound a little dated. But songs like "Goin' Through Your Purse," "Kim the Waitress," "A Very Good Thing," and "Ordinary Girl" are near perfect pop songs, showcasing masterful songwriting. Ellison unapologetically incorporates sounds from 60s pop, 70s arena rock, 80s punk, and distills it all into catchy, upbeat, 90s alternative pop. Despite the fact that it sounds very much of its time, the songs on Freak City Soundtrack are simply too good to be tarnished by seeming too dated.

Needless to say, this album was more than worth the $3 or so that I paid for it.

Sadly, Jim Ellison committed suicide less than 2 years after the release of Freak City Soundtrack.

[Note: I was going to embed the video for "Kim the Waitress," the only song off the album that has a video, but Universal Music has disabled the embedding feature. You can watch it here.]


Brad said...

Down with sad bastard moping!

Scott said...

As I wrote my response to your comment on the 30 Days of Night post, I was drinking hot chocolate while listening to "Into the Infinity of Thoughts" by Emperor.

I just kind of wanted people to know that that's how I spend my Sunday nights. Black metal and cocoa...

Brad said...