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