Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jim Ellison, come back, I miss you!

I was testing some high-end stereo components as a favor for an acquaintance; they had belonged to his son, who was killed in an auto racing accident. I tried a few different artists and, liking the sound of the system, remembered one of my favorite sequences of songs to enjoy through a good stereo rig: the last four tracks of Material Issue's Freak City Soundtrack. Halfway through I saw the irony; an artist that died too young playing through the sound system of another who died too young.

Grab some Material Issue and play it loud, anything they did is pretty frickin' great. Be like me if you want and hit track 8 on FCS. Ordinary Girl... seductive bass, searing guitar and solid drumming, and of course hooky as hell, And a great solo. Long sustain into a crashing chord and Echo Beach kicks in, manic tempo, the whammy guitar flirting with feedback, coolness practically dripping from the speakers, multiple guitar solos, is he doing that Townshend thing with the pickup switch? Whammy totally detunes the strings and it's over... studio chatter, "That's a good tempo" and She's Goin' Thru My Head launches, another fast one, lyrics are Jim's daydream about a perfect life, 1970s power-pop style. Fade out into a cold start, Jim yelping "Have you ever gotten...", the band kicks in and he finishes "high? So high you couldn't come down?" This is Help Me Land, maybe I read too much into it but it seems a fitting end to the last completed MI studio album. Lyrics like "Did you ever feel left out - so out you could'nt come back in?" and the chorus "I'm trying hard to understand, you gotta help me land..."

No one helped Jim land. This album sold poorly, the label dropped him. People wanted grunge in the mid-90s, not power pop. A longtime love came to an end on his 32nd birthday. A couple of months later Jim was found dead in his garage of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Play their stuff if you've got it. If you don't, check it out.

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