Lost in the ’90s: Elastica

lit90s

Elastica frontperson Justine Frischmann could certainly be called a central figure in the ’90s Britpop movement.  After all, this was the former guitarist from Suede who gave that band its name, as well as dating its singer, Brett Anderson.  Then, she split with Anderson and took up with Blur vocalist Damon Albarn in a storm of tabloid fury.  But all that paled in comparison to the mark she made when her band, Elastica, became the first Britpop band to really break America.

Buoyed by the instantly catchy single “Connection” (so instantly familiar that Wire sued the group for nicking “Three Girl Rhumba”), Elastica’s self-titled debut stormed the charts on both ends of the Atlantic in 1995.  “Connection” was all over MTV, even during the day – Oasis and Blur were still resigned to the 120 Minutes/Alternative Nation ghetto at the time.  The single even peaked at #40 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart, something other Britpop bands could only dream of in a sea of Candleboxes and Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Elastica even went Gold.

Elastica’s second single in the US, “Stutter,” (download) was actually their first ever single overseas.  A truly nasty tune (in the best way) about a boyfriend who’s having trouble getting it up for his girlfriend (oh, Brett!  Or Damon!), “Stutter” was a punky blast of Blondie mixed with the Pretenders and a dash of Ramones for good measure.

It may have been a bit too retro for American radio, however, since “Stutter” stalled out without even making it halfway up the Hot 100.  I expected bigger things from the album’s third single in the US, “Car Song,” (download) yet another hook-filled tune from an album filled with them.  Love the lyrics on this one – shocker!  another Elastica song about getting laid! – “In every little Honda / There may lurk a Peter Fonda / OOOOoooo!”  Also love the Spike Jonze-directed video, chock-full of Ghostbusting shenanigans:

Elastica pretty much fell apart after the success of their debut.  The protracted, re-recorded and re-recorded follow-up, The Menace, finally emerged in 2000 with a nearly all-new band lineup and is not half as bad as its reputation.  But it didn’t do nearly the business of the first album and the band splintered for good.  Then the truly strange stuff started.  Frischmann left the UK for Boulder, Colorado, where she studied at a Buddhist liberal arts school, and eventually married a professor.  Lead guitarist Donna Matthews became a Christian and is studying music Dartington College in the UK.

Mojo magazine recently put out a superlative ’90s Britpop special edition where they attempted to get interviews with Frischmann and Matthews but failed, so don’t look for that Elastica reunion any time soon.  Too bad.

“Stutter” peaked at #67 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #10 on the Modern Rock Tracks Chart in 1995.
“Car Song” peaked at #33 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks Chart in 1995.

Get Elastica music at Amazon or on Elastica




  • http://marcmaronrules.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Thanks..
    Love the Elastica..
    It didn't hurt that Justine was easy on the eyes..
    The accent got me too..

    My Elastica Confession is now over.. ;)
    .

  • kingofgrief

    I remember picking up the Elastica CD at Target and being surprised it was there in the first place. Back in '95, Target didn't have the expanded inventory for up and coming acts as they do today, so the label must have been doing some heavy pushing to break them out of common cult status for most Britpop acts here. They were supposed to play Houston that year (either Thanksgiving night or roundabouts) but the gig was canceled and never rescheduled. Pity, really; I was going to ask Ms. Frischmann about her accommodations that night.

    My intro to the band was the airing of the original “Stutter” video on 120 Minutes months before the album was issued Stateside. After the success of “Connection”, MTV began showing the clip embedded above, which I always considered a patronizing move. Gotta change the action every few seconds or the Yanks will get bored! A slightly off-sync upload of the original can be found here.

  • Sam

    Loved Stutter. It was a cool track, and also so short that i would usually use it as the last song on a mix tape to fill in those little gaps at the end of the tape.
    Good times.

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    Love Elastica, and am shocked that most people dogged The Menace. I thought Mad Dog and How He Wrote Elastica Man held up to their best stuff.

  • jezcox

    The Menace is a top album. It is just far more experimental than the debut, just open your ears for God's sake. You are always going to be disappointed when you expect the debut album 'mark 2'. How He Wrote Elastica Man is a classic, which stands up against anything on their debut, and is better than The Fall song of similar title. The sheer versatility of The Menace is awesome. Hats off to them I say. They went away for sex, drugs and all that, came back (eventually) with a superb second album, and then buggered off to do their own thing, by studying and becoming religious. This is the stuff of legend. They should never reform, just remember them as they were.

  • JohnHughes

    Check above – I said it's “not half as bad as its reputation,” so it looks like we all pretty much agree with you. :)

  • jezcox

    The Menace is a top album. It is just far more experimental than the debut, just open your ears for God's sake. You are always going to be disappointed when you expect the debut album 'mark 2'. How He Wrote Elastica Man is a classic, which stands up against anything on their debut, and is better than The Fall song of similar title. The sheer versatility of The Menace is awesome. Hats off to them I say. They went away for sex, drugs and all that, came back (eventually) with a superb second album, and then buggered off to do their own thing, by studying and becoming religious. This is the stuff of legend. They should never reform, just remember them as they were.

  • JohnHughes

    Check above – I said it's “not half as bad as its reputation,” so it looks like we all pretty much agree with you. :)

  • jezcox

    The Menace is a top album. It is just far more experimental than the debut, just open your ears for God's sake. You are always going to be disappointed when you expect the debut album 'mark 2'. How He Wrote Elastica Man is a classic, which stands up against anything on their debut, and is better than The Fall song of similar title. The sheer versatility of The Menace is awesome. Hats off to them I say. They went away for sex, drugs and all that, came back (eventually) with a superb second album, and then buggered off to do their own thing, by studying and becoming religious. This is the stuff of legend. They should never reform, just remember them as they were.

  • JohnHughes

    Check above – I said it's “not half as bad as its reputation,” so it looks like we all pretty much agree with you. :)