The COVID Diaries: The Sound of Pure Joy

Hi Darling Ones,

The first thing I saw this morning when I popped open Gladys as I was settling with my coffee was Annie Zaleski’s tweet alerting the internet that Material Issue’s “International Pop Overthrow” was thirty years old today.

My first thought was, oh my god I love that record. My second thought was, once again math hurts my feelings. To be fair it’s not just math that hurts my feelings. It’s the passage of time too. Most number-related things, I guess.

Since this was a momentous occasion, I cleared my schedule* to spend the day listening to Material Issue’s three nearly perfect records and pondering what their music has meant to me. To be fair, I did not need an anniversary as an excuse to do this. I frequently spend the day listening to Material Issue because I love them. They make me feel energized and productive.

Where to begin? Probably with the song “Valerie Loves Me.** It makes me happy right to my marrow. I hear this song and the blood in my veins gets fizzy like soda pop. It’s a song that makes me hazy with nostalgia and reminds me of drunkenly dancing and singing this song with a beautiful boy named LaFrenz on the shores of Half Moon Lake back in 1994 or 1995. Everything was a long time ago now.

What I love so much about Material Issue’s music is that sonically it is pure joy. It’s best kind of poppy goodness. I believe their songs are what the youth would call a bop. Or at least they should be. I’m not entirely sure what a bop is or a banger. Or the different between a bop and a banger. And if a song slaps that is lost on me too.

The thing with Material Issue is that I love them for the same kinds of reasons I love The Replacements. See, Paul Westerberg has this ability to write what I like to call hip shakers and heart breakers, but they are usually different songs. Hip Shakers: Left of the Dial, I Will Dare, Alex Chilton. Heart Breakers: Here Comes a Regular, If Only You Were Lonely, Skyway. Can’t Hardly Wait might be one that combines both.

But Material Issue? Like 95% of their songs are hip shakers and heart breakers all at the same fucking time and that is genius and appeals to all my dual-natured gemini sensibilities. I don’t know about you, Darling Ones, but I love things with layers. I really am a Shrek-like motherfucker.

Material Issue issue sounds like the best, brightest pink Hubba Bubba bubblegum but if you listen to the words for even thirty seconds you’ll see it’s not that happy. Some of the songs are dark and even border on the problematic (Goin’ Through Your Purse, Kim the Waitress). Even my beloved Valerie that makes my heart giddy isn’t a happy song.

I like things that are contradictory, two things at once and that’s what Material Issue is. I like love songs that are kinda sad. I like pop songs that are dark.

On a personal level what I love the most about Material Issue is they’re one of very few bands that don’t have to carry the weight of my emotional baggage. Somehow they’ve managed to slip past all that nonsense and continue to be the sound of pure joy, which I know is ironic because of the band’s sad ending. I try not to think of that part. Instead, I love these three albums with my entire heart.

I really would like to wake up with you early in the morning or stay up late just playing records on your phonograph,
*Today’s schedule was to include being vaguely annoyed about work while also procrastinating on doing that work and being lonely.
**Beware the comments on this video. I read the second one and it made me cry. Damn.

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  1. will 05.Feb.21 at 6:15 pm

    Is Gladys your phone, a coffee maker, or a plant

    1. Jodi Chromey 05.Feb.21 at 6:17 pm

      Gladys is my laptop. My phone is named Ziggy. The coffee maker doesn’t have a name, weirdly.

  2. will 08.Mar.21 at 10:08 pm

    Are you alright?

  3. Jodi Chromey 08.Mar.21 at 10:16 pm

    Not really. I’m struggling. I’ll be back tomorrow I hope. Thank you for asking.


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