Thursday, September 15, 2011

Elastica- S/T (1995) / The Menace (2000) / The Radio One Sessions (2001) MP3 & FLAC

"I'd work very hard, but I'm lazy, I've got a lot of songs but they're all in my head. I'll get a guitar and a lover who pays me, if I can't be a star, I won't get out of bed."

Before forming Elastica (originally known as Onk) in mid-1992, Justine Frischmann was known more for her romantic conquests than her musical exploits. Having co-founded the iconic Brit-Pop band Suede in 1989 with then-college boyfriend Brett Anderson, Frischmann ended up being jettisoned from the band when she started up romantically with Damon Albarn of Brit-Pop rivals Blur. As former Suede lead guitarist Bernard Butler recalls, "She'd turn up late for rehearsals and say the worst thing in the world- 'I've been on a Blur video shoot.' That was when it ended, really. I think it was the day after she said that that Brett phoned me up and said, 'I've kicked her out.'"  Frischmann's version: "I just thought it was better to be Pete Best than Linda McCartney. Apart from anything, I just couldn't deal with being the second guitarist and having this strange, Lady Macbeth role in it along with being general mother to four blokes." Whatever the reason for her exit from Suede, she quickly set about forming her own band with another ex-Suede refugee, drummer Justin Welch who had also spent time in Spitfire.

After adding guitarist Donna Matthews, who had answered an ad the band had placed in Melody Maker specifying someone influenced by The Fall, The Stranglers and Wire, Elastica quickly gained exposure, first by opening for Blur as well as Pulp, recording a session for John Peel's BBC radio show, and then by issuing three very successful singles, one of which, "Connection," accomplished something few Brit-Pop bands were able to do: achieve chart success in the U.S. However, from the beginning, many accused Elastica of riding on the coattails of Albarn's immense success with Blur, and the band was also sued by two of their main influences, Wire and The Stranglers, for what amounted to plagiarism (they settled both cases out of court). Despite such adversity, Elastica's self-titled debut LP was nothing less than an unprecedented success, becoming the fastest selling debut album ever released in the U.K. and being nominated for the Mercury Prize. What made this success so surprising was how out of step Elastica was with the prevailing trends in indie music at the time; while most Brit-Pop bands were reaching back to either Glam-Rock (Suede) or the classic guitar-pop of The Beatles and The Kinks (Oasis and Blur respectively), Elastica's sound was firmly rooted in British Post-Punk bands such as Wire and the Buzzcocks (and in this sense, they were a full five years ahead of their time). The album itself is soaked in edgy, angular guitar riffs, defiantly blunt lyrics and masterful hooks, all of which highlight how the debate over the band's (lack of) originality was utterly beside the point. Afterall, if Frischmann & co. were borrowing ideas from Wire and The Stranglers, how was that any different than Oasis' liberal copping of The Beatles? In fact, one could argue that Elastica, just by virtue of the material they chose to "borrow," was far more "original" than most of their Brit-Pop brethren; it's not just any band that can transform the arty pretensions of Wire into a nearly perfect three-minute pop song.

Listening to the opening bars of the debut album's lead track, "Line Up," with its grimy guitar blasts and sexually suggestive lyrics, it becomes instantly clear just how influential Elastica's sound was with the Post-Punk revival crowd of the early 2000s. Yes, it does remind one a bit of Blur's "Girls and Boys," but it is far more aggressive in tone and darker in texture. On the impossibly infectious "Connection," Frischmann's Punk-infused sing-song vocal delivery and the band's sexy swagger combine into something that completely transcends their influences and is arguably one of the best singles released during the nineties. Despite (or perhaps due to) the enormous success of Elastica, the band was unable to produce a follow-up until The Menace was issued in 2000. During the course of the intervening six years between albums, drug abuse and the departure of several original band members took a heavy toll, as the band was constantly rumored to be on the verge of dissolution, something which finally came to fruition a year after their return. Nevertheless, it seems that Frischmann was prescient enough to see the writing on the wall at the height of Elastica's success: "In a musical sense, it seemed like all the good intentions had gone awry, very quickly. I mean, we got back from America and Blur had made The Great Escape, which I thought was a really, truly awful album- so cheesy, like a parody of Parklife, but without the balls or the intellect. And Oasis were enormous and I always found them incredibly dreary. There was this uncritical reverence surrounding the whole thing; it had seemed to me that maybe I was part of some force that was going to make music edgier and more interesting and then suddenly Blur were playing Wembley stadium and it was gone."

(DCG ~ 1995)

 1. Line Up  (3:16)
 2. Annie  (1:14)
 3. Connection  (2:21)
 4. Car Song  (2:24)
 5. Smile  (1:41)
 6. Hold Me Now  (2:32)
 7. S.O.F.T.  (3:58)
 8. Indian Song  (2:46)
 9. Blue  (2:22)
10. All-Nighter  (1:33)
11. Waking Up  (3:16)
12. 2:1  (2:31)
13. See That Animal  (2:33)
14. Stutter  (2:22)
15. Never Here  (4:27)
16. Vaseline  (1:24)

The Menace  
(Deceptive ~ 2000)

 1. Mad Dog God Dam  (3:16)
 2. Generator  (1:50)
 3. How He Wrote Elastica Man  (2:02)
 4. Image Change  (3:27)
 5. Your Arse My Place  (2:16)
 6. Human  (3:30)
 7. Nothing Stays The Same  (2:44)
 8. Miami Nice  (3:22)
 9. Love Like Ours  (2:23)
10. KB  (3:13)
11. My Sex  (4:11)
12. The Way I Like It  (2:40)
13. Da Da Da  (3:52)

The Radio One Sessions  
(Strange Fruit ~ 2001)

 1. Annie  (1:15)
 2. Spastica  (2:34)
 3. Line Up  (3:12)
 4. Vaseline  (1:21)
 5. Brighton Rock  (1:57)
 6. In the City  (1:31)
 7. Waking Up  (3:18)
 8. Four Wheeling  (2:26)
 9. Hold Me Now  (2:26)
10. Ba Ba Ba  (2:34)
11. All for Gloria  (3:03)
12. I Wanna Be a King of Orient Aah  (2:06)
13. Rock 'n' Roll  (2:14)
14. 2:1  (2:30)
15. I Want You  (4:05)
16. Only Human  (3:25)
17. A Love Like Ours  (2:27)
18. KB  (3:13)
19. Da Da Da  (3:42)
20. Generator  (1:48)
21. Your Arse My Place  (1:47)

Elastica- "Connection" Video (1994)


  1. Nice post V - I think they were guilty of plagiarism, they didn't even try to cover it up. I mean they were so obvious about it, I truly couldn't see any relation between G. Harrison's My Sweet Lord and the song he was sued for and lost by I can't remember some 60's girl group. Anyway despite all the ripoff melodies I still like Elastica and appreciate the post. And the read as well.

  2. I don't have this album but I am familiar with Elastica and as sradams777 stated they sounded very much like somebody else, if that makes sense. Still it's worth a trip back down memory lane so thanks for the post!

  3. Quite an extensive post, v. Thanks for your efforts. I hadn't heard the Radio One Sessions. Totally agree with the previous comments. Though they did make some fun albums that sound great (even if it was at the expense of their predecessors).

  4. sradams777, I'm not even sure what the term "plagiarism" means, since rock music has a long tradition of borrowing from previous songs. In fact, the Folk tradition openly embraces it: Woody Guthrie would often take an old song and write his own lyrics for it. Dylan, in his early years, did the same. I just wonder how someone can claim to "own" a series of notes or a chord progression. But I guess it's no stranger than someone telling me that I can't make copies of or share a CD I have purchased

  5. scurfie and bv, it could just as easily be said that The Rolling Stones made some early albums that came at the expense of Chuck Berry. I think Elastica was reaching for something deceptively trashy, catchy, derivative, disposable, but the key word is "deceptively" because it's pretty defiant beneath the surface. I miss Justine, who is now living in Northern California married to a professor who isn't me ;)

  6. Voixautre, your right. The history of music is based on improving upon what was done previously. In some cases , it's simply a tweak in others it's something totally new. I wasn't slamming Elastica. I loved that first record when it was released (and still do now). It contained all the elements I liked from other bands, plus the 'tweak' which we call Elastic.

  7. bv, well-put. I really like thelast line-wish I had thought of it :) Massive John Foxx post up next!

  8. I hear u V, but there is a difference between "influenced by" and outright ripoff. There's always gonna be influences but when I hear 3 Girl Rhumba and only the lyrics are changed that is outright copying. Anyways I also don't know how a group like DOVES can put a song like M62 that is an outright copy of King Crimson's 'Moonchild' (that was even used in a movie no less) out...but it was unintentioned (I think). Anyway I see your side as well.

  9. sradams777, I definitely see your point, and I think most would agree with you on this. I just don't think the line between "influenced by" and "ripoff" is always that clear, or that changing lyrics to pre-existing melodies is so terrible since it is considered acceptable in most music traditions including American/European Folk. Anyway, great comment! thanks :)

  10. Thank you for the re-evaluation of Elastica. Very, very thought-provoking...

  11. La Piazza Gancio, thank you for commenting! I really enjoyed working on this post.

  12. Thank you for this post, to be honest I had totally forgot about Elastica, the 90's are becoming a blur for me. It's amazing how fresh this album (ST) sounds today.

  13. happy, that's exactly what happened to me. I hadn't heard Elastica for quite a while and recently I gave them a listen (specifically the first album), and just like you mentioned, it sounded pretty good to my ears. By the way, the nineties are pretty much a haze for me too. Great to hear from you!


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