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Elastica iTunes Tracks

Elastica

Not quite Britpop’s only all-female band, but close enough, due to its 3-to-1 ratio in favour of the girls, the original line-up of ELASTICA had their moments in a movement that was virtually owned by BLUR, OASIS, PULP and the likes. Subsequently dogged by numerous lawsuits concerning accusations of plagiarism, out-of-court settlements were reached to stop WIRE and The STRANGLERS – but mainly solicitors – emptying their pockets, although the column inches surrounding the fuss ruined their chances of having a quick-fire follow-up to match their chart-topping eponymous album of 1995.
Kensington-born songsmith Justine Frischmann was ELASTICA’s main protagonist, a founding member of London’s SUEDE, in 1989, alongside then-boyfriend Brett Anderson, whom she split with in 1991. The tensions between the pair put paid to her membership of the band, compounded when she started to date BLUR’s Damon Albarn and appeared on their videos. Abandoning the moniker “Onk” for another in-vogue one-word name, ELASTICA, Frischmann (lead vocals/rhythm guitar) called upon former SUEDE (and SPITFIRE) drummer Justin Welch, bassist Annie Holland and Welsh-born lead guitarist/vocalist Donna Matthews, to officially kick-start the group in October 1992. Duly endorsed by top Radio One disc-jockey Steve Lamacq when signed to his co-owned independent Deceptive label in 1993, by the end of the year, debut single `Stutter’ was garnering some much-needed air-time, whilst also reaching the lists of the exalted John Peel’s Festive Fifty. Incidentally, the mighty Sub Pop Records were impressed enough to deliver the same 7-inch – the following August – to a post-Kurt Cobain, US audience.
It was indeed their next single, the Top 20 breaker `Line Up’, that ruffled a few feathers, but went amiss somewhat, in regards to its remarkable congruity with WIRE’s `I Am The Fly’, a punk act the group had seemingly loved for years. A one-off coincidence or indeed something more subliminally sinister, WIRE’s Colin Newman and Co were brought to the attention of ELASTICA’s second cheeky Top 20 entry, `Connection’. New wave of the new wave featuring fuzzbox-like guitars, their (almost) blatant plagiarism of WIRE’s `Three Girl Rhumba’ riffs caused consternation, and an aforementioned out-of-court settlement; costs that would eat into the accrued royalties from their subsequent parent set. Ironically, the song in question secured a minor place in the US charts and found its way on to comic Dom Jolly’s TV show, Trigger Happy.
Meanwhile, D.G.C. – aka Geffen Records – took up the option for worldwide sales as all awaited that, as yet, elusive debut album. Previewing the LP, the near-Top 10 `Waking Up’ brewed up yet another storm, this time for the song’s similarity to The STRANGLERS’ `No More Heroes’. Cries of oh-no-not-again were heard from the proverbial London rooftops, as Justine and Co once again had to avoid hefty court costs by ushering forthwith, a co-credit to their Shakespearos; Messrs JJ BURNEL and Jet Black were said to be almost thrilled of the exposure, and even thanked the offenders for the er.. re-working; DAMON ALBARN (under the Dan Abnormal anagram) would feature as keyboard player and as side-kick on Top Of The Pops.
Finally, released to ecstatic reviews in March ‘95, their eponymous album, ELASTICA {*9}, went straight into the charts at No.1, in the process becoming the fastest-selling debut since OASIS’ Definitely Maybe. The group’s spiky, punk-inspired sound the toast of Britpop’s golden year, Frischmann was now seen as the genre’s uncrowned ice queen. A Mercury Music Prize-nominated record (that reached #66 in the States!), comparisons not plagiarism accusations thankfully supervened the rest of the set, although ELASTICA just might’ve wondered when The CLASH, ADAM AND THE ANTS or BLONDIE might be calling them up on the telephone. Jesting aside, the universal conclusion was that `S.O.F.T.’, `Car Song’ and the short `All-Nighter’ (another Peely fave!) were branded dyed-in-the-wool(-ish) ELASTICA cuts.
Although an exhausted Annie Holland bailed that summer after a Glastonbury appearance and a US Lollapalooza tour (to fill SINEAD O’CONNOR’s boots), it was almost a year before permanent replacements were found in bassist Sheila Chipperfield (in for tour temp Abby Travis) and keyboardist David Bush (ex-FALL). However, the group were conspicuous by their absence from the recording front. Frischmann subsequently refused any further press interviews following the media circus surrounding her relationship with ALBARN. The only action from the ELASTICA camp during this stage was the one-off ME ME ME Britpop supergroup (featuring Welch, STEPHEN DUFFY, BLUR’s Alex James and friend Charlie Bloor), who secured a Top 20 hit in summer ‘96 with `Hanging Around’ (not The STRANGLERS track, one might add).
By early ’99, and despite rumours of their demise, ELASTICA were still hanging around in one way or another. That summer, Frischmann (now bereft of ALBARN), Welch, Bush, new lead guitarist Paul Jones (from LINOLEUM) and fresh keyboardist Sharon Mew (ex-Heave, who filled Donna’s berth), plus the returning Annie Holland (not Chipperfield), made up the 6-piece that duly re-grouped. To coincide with a mini-set type release – recorded between 1996-99 – entitled, er… `6 Track EP’, the band were more than happy to return to the limelight playing the Leeds and Reading festivals. Of all the tracks (the EP apparently, not eligible for chart listings!), probably the highlight was the canny cut, `How He Wrote Elastica Man’, not a FALL cover but a 180-degree transpose of `How I Wrote Elastic Man’, with kind permission of Mark E. Smith (of course), who indeed guested on this collaboration.
As the millennium came to a close, ELASTICA were in the studio polishing off a long-awaited sophomore set. The aforesaid album did indeed arrive in 2000; THE MENACE {*6} undergoing countless false starts and the attentions of numerous producers before finally seeing the light of day. Patient fans expecting another dose of addictive razor-pop hits were to be disappointed as Justine and Co enmeshed themselves in the oblique, angular dissonance of their art-punk progenitors. Only a minor hit single, `Mad Dog’, plus the witty `Your Arse My Place’ (a riff borrowed from ADAM AND THE ANTS’ `It Doesn’t Matter’) and `Human’ (a go-ahead take-off of WIRE’s `Lowdown’) were anything to write home about, while the decision to cover TRIO’s `Da Da Da’ as anchor dirge, was totally misjudged. ELASTICA split in October 2001 after a swansong 45 for Wichita Records: `The Bitch Don’t Work’. Frischmann would find solace in her visual artwork and psychology studies. She emigrated to Colorado, then California’s Bay Area where she married; on the other side of globe, Welch and Mew duly tied the knot; Justin joined a re-formed LUSH, in 2015.
© MC Strong/MCS 1996-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Jul2016

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