Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 17)
Here’s a fact that goes a long way in summing up just how insane things had gotten with Britpop by 1995. In 1993 Suede’s debut album set the record for the highest selling debut album in British history, in 1994 Oasis broke that record with Definitely Maybe
, and in 1995 that record was broken again
by Elastica’s self titled debut album. Needless to say, things were getting out of hand. A few weeks before its release frontwoman Justine Frischmann claimed she would “be quite happy to just have a cult following. I want to be underground.” In the Britpop stricken world of 1995 Britain, the underground was now thie mainstream and anyone who could strum a guitar and pen a chorus could go platinum, just ask Menswe@r. Odd thing is, Elastica
doesn’t sound much like its fastest selling debut forbearers. Where Suede
and Definitely Maybe
wore their ambitions to rally the kids and start a movement on their sleeves, Elastica
is a collection of razor sharp pop songs bereft of any pretension. The majority of the songs don’t even hit 3 minutes.
The unfortunate thing for Justine Frischmann is she may end up being remembered more for being Britpop’s femme fatal than lead singer of Elastica. Her relationships with Bret Anderson and Damon Albarn had huge impacts on their careers. The former was becoming passive in domestic bliss and was snapped into focus when Frischmann left. The latter drew from his own breakup with Frischmann for a later day shift in songwriting to more personal songwriting. This would be selling Frischmann short as on her own she proved a fierce songwriter. Once she was ousted from Suede she formed Elastica with drummer Justin Welch. Bassist Anne Holland and guitarist Donna Matthews joined later. The band was held together with drugs, lots and lots of drugs. Donna Matthews in particular became mired in heroin to the point that her inability to obtain it on their first American tour almost scuttled them. Their self-titled debut album was released on a wave of hype in March 1995.
At 16 songs in 38 minutes, Elastica
flies by like a bullet. From the sliced guitar and hilarious grunting of “Line Up” to the stop start rundown of “Vaseline” theirs hardly a bum note in the mix. An ultra processed guitar drives “Connection” while Frischmann throws her vocals into the songs corners. Throughout, Frischmann maintains a slyly sexy presence, one that’s alluring without ever being preening. “I hardly know you, but I think I’m going to,” she coos on “Car Song,” Lets go siesta in your Ford Fiesta.” Elastica
cops from post punk luminaries like Wire and Blondie. Sometimes so directly in fact that Elastica was sued by Wire and 5 other bands for plagiarism. Either way, they make great rip offs. None better than the albums twin peaks, “Stutter” and “Never Here”. The former is an uproarious send up of boys that cant seem to get it up around Frischmann. “Is it something you lack, when I’m flat on my back? Is there something I can do for you?/Its always something you hate, is it something you ate? Tell me is it the way that I touch you?” On the latter, Frischmann lets her guard fall for an expose on her relationship with Bret Anderson. “We were sitting and waiting/And I told you my plan/You were far to busy writing/Rhymes that didn’t scan.”
Not only did Elastica
prove to be a quick seller in England, but it broke America as well. Instead of slogging through their American dates like Blur and Suede, Elastica was well received, attracting such famous fans as Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop. Two of the albums singles hit the top them of the Modern Rock charts nad the album sold over 500 thousand copies. In the wake of such success Elastica made like a successful rock band and vacuumed up as many drugs as they could get their hands on and settled into a repetitive habit of heroin with some cocain to ease the comedown. The band fragmented with Donna Matthews leaving in 1998 amongst her escalating heroin habit. Elastica released a second album, The Menace
, in 2000 to a mostly indifferent public before breaking up in 2001. Elastica burnt out quick but for one burst of energy managed to be a femine cool alternative to Britpop’s ongoing sausage fest.