Elastica, Elastica 1995, Deceptive Records
Hold Me Now
Having formed in 1992, Elastica’s self titled debut album was heavily influenced by punk and New Wave Both vocalist Justine Frischmann and drummer Justin Welch had been members of Suede and it was the addition of Annie Holland on bass and Donna Matthews on guitar that formed their new quartet. 1995 was the year that Britpop reached its zenith and this album entered the charts at number 1.
I’ve been excited about getting to 1995 since I started writing the Classics because it’s the time when I really, properly started getting into music and since there are so many albums I wanted to cover I’ve decided to be chronological about it. I’m glad I did, because the first chords of Line Up transported me straight back there. It’s very much of its time and place, and while there is no definitive Britpop sound, this still feels like it’s unmistakably a Britpop song with a focus on the guitars and the drumbeat. Annie by contrast is much harder and faster and feels much more punky. Connection, probably this band’s most famous song, maintains the strong rhythm section and offers an enticing beat and melody all the way through. I’m surprised Car Song was released as a single, it just seems a bit gimmicky and not that exciting. It’s probably the only weak song on the album though. Smile goes back to the punk influences and is much better (I don’t actually remember Elastica being this punky and I’m enjoying it). S.O.F.T is a really interesting track, it feels languid, both in the guitar part and the vocal, unexpectedly awesome. Blue is back to normal, a fast and furious rocker. The guitars keep shining on All-Nighter. Now, despite this album reaching number 1, given how strong this year was for music some people may wonder why I’ve picked it - I have to admit the real reason we’re here is Waking Up. (and yes, I know it sounds a lot like The Stranglers, unsurprising plot twist: I also love The Stranglers) I should probably be ashamed to say that I consider a song that starts with the lyrics; “I’d work very hard, but I’m lazy” to be a personal anthem, but I’m not and I do, so here we are. The riff that starts this song is just sublime, it’s honestly one of the most perfect examples of this genre. The insouciant lyrics, the drumbeat, the thrashing guitars. I love everything about it. Ok, I’ve calmed down enough to listen to 2:1 which takes things in an interesting different direction. The lyrical delivery is gentle but the melody is tight and the manipulation of the vocal is cool. Vaseline is great, yet another fast and furious punk track. Break-up song Never Here is another one with a great beat and melody. The album ends with the band’s first single, the thrashing Stutter.
This album felt fast in the best punk tradition and although there was a fair bit of track to track diversity, like with the best punk albums I felt almost tired out by the end of it. Although it was 15 songs long they were all pretty short and seemed to go by in a rush (and I listened to Waking Up twice, because, well, you know why). I’ve got to say I loved it. I haven’t actually listened to Elastica in years and that’s clearly been a mistake. This album is so consistent, it’s just 40 minutes of awesome riffs and hooks and drums.
Elastica were controversial because a number of the bands that they were influenced by sued them for plagiarising parts of their songs on this album. It’s clear that they had good reason because there are some very obviously lifted riffs, but don’t let that put you off. All of them go in a new and interesting direction and just think how much great music is made using samples these days,
Elastica are often written off in the UK as being famous because of the media interest in their singer’s love life rather than their talent and, while you’ll hear Blur’s Damon Albarn (whom Justine was dating at the time) playing keyboard on a few tracks here, it’s unfair to dismiss them so easily because every member of the band manages to shine in their own right on this album.
They spent most of 1995 touring around the world and achieved considerable success in the US, however their struggles with both fame and drugs stopped them from being able to fully capitalize on any of this. They eventually broke up in 2001 having released only one further full album.
Their influence is hard to quantify because they seem to have been relegated to a footnote in the Britpop story. Of course you can’t ignore the fact that Justine herself heavily influenced both Suede and Blur (13 is all about her) but the stop-start nature of their career after they finished touring in 1995 means that not many other artists cite them. If you’ve never had the pleasure though, please do yourself a favour and listen to this brilliant album, it’s still fresh, it’s still relevant and it’s still really bloody good.