Review Summary: An unrelenting post, post-punk attack, Elastica delivers - With power chords and a sneer.
Fourteen years after it's release, Elastica's self-titled debut is slipping through the cracks of music history. Copies of this near-forgotten album can likely be found collecting dust on a Gen-Xer's CD shelf or for sale (cheap and used) at an independent record store. Take a look at some online music marketplaces and you'll see the CD can be attained for a very small sum. If you're not familiar with Elastica beyond their one big mid-90's radio hit, do yourself a favor and drop the one cent plus shipping it costs to purchase a copy – because, sonically, it's worth a lot more than the price of admission.
With a slew of two and a half minute rockers, Elastica take us back to the nostalgic sounds of the late 70's/early 80's with their self titled debut. Commonly labeled as Britpop or 90's alternative, Elastica's debut is much closer akin to the post-punk sound established well over a decade before it. This collection of songs has a lot more in common with The Buzzcocks than it does with anything Oasis or Blur ever released - And it rocks substantially harder. Comprised of sharp, distorted riffs and a pissy female vocal, this album oozes attitude.
Ringleader and former Suede guitarist, Justine Frischmann runs the show - backed by lead guitarist Donna Mathews, bassist Annie Holland and odd man out Justin Welch on drums. While the sound may not be completely original, it manages to come off as a fresh and welcome diversion from the sea of grunged-out alterna-rock dominating shelf space and airwaves in the mid-90's.
Setting the tone right out of the gate, opening track “Line Up”
delivers a sleazy guitar intro, complete with a puking groan between chords, courtesy of drummer Justin Welch. Lyrics like “You can't see the wood for the trees – on your knees”
set the controls early for the kind of ride Elastica plan to take us on throughout the remainder of the album.
By the fourth minute, the record reaches it's third track – Elastica's defining single, “Connection”
. Performed with a sing-speak delivery, vocalist Justine Frischmann squeezes more attitude into each lyric than most punkers can muster into an entire album. While “Connection”
may be the most well-known track in the band's repertoire, there are many more that pack an equal, if not more potent punch. One fine example is the band's debut single from 1993, re-recorded for their album in 1995, “Stutter”
, where Justine delivers a verbal assault, leaving little doubt as to who runs the show: “Is there something you lack, when I'm flat on my back - Is there something that I can do for you"”
is the question proposed, with a snide delivery. Keeping up with her isn't an easy task - This chick is damn cool, and that fact is a large part of what makes this album work as well as it does.
This release alternates between up-tempo and mid-tempo tracks, all equal in abrasiveness. Rockers like “Annie”
can be over-matched by slower, yet more densely expressive tracks like “Hold Me Now”
, which never quite shift into high gear, yet still have the same capacity to kick you in the arse. A highlight of the album is the note-bending riff on “S.O.F.T.”
(Same Old ***ing Thing), which embodies the detached attitude consistent through the entire record.
What holds this album back from being a complete success is its blatant lack of originality. While the record may stand apart from it's mid-90's peers, it strongly resembles the work done by the first generation of post-punk pioneers – So much so that the band had to settle out of court with seminal English punk band, Wire, over stark similarities between Elastica's “Connection”
and the song “Three Girl Rhumba”
from Wire's 1977 release, Pink Flag
, in which the opening guitar riff is lifted almost note for note. Other noticeable similarities lie in the chorus of the album opener “Line Up”
and Wire's “I Am The Fly”
, off their 1978 release, Chairs Missing
. If this weren't enough lifting for one record, Elastica dipped into The Stranglers' bag, replicating the core melody from the title track of 1978's No More Heroes
. For some, this is enough to dismiss the credibility of Elastica and their self-titled debut – but it doesn't change the fact that the album, as a whole, is an exciting, adrenaline-rich punch in the face that arguably improves upon the work done by those who inspired it.
If you can look past the album's primary fault of melodic thievery, there is quite a bit to enjoy on this release consisting of sixteen tracks – only one of which crosses into four-minute territory. With the exception of back-to-back tracks “Indian Song”
(the only real down-tempo tracks on the album), Elastica's eponymous debut is an all-out assault on the listener, which deserves a listen and then significant replay. This album bites you hard and doesn't ever seem to get stale when you come back for more.
Standout Tracks: Lineup, Car Song, Hold Me Now, S.O.F.T., Stutter.