Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Long-awaited Elastica album more meek than Menace

In the mid-90s, Elastica was one of the few Britpop bands, along with Oasis and Blur, to have any kind of success in the United States. A beer commercial even used their song Connection.

Their self-tilted debut was filled with catchy hooks grafted into tight, wiry punk-pop songs. It was easy to tell the band was a big fan of artsy punk bands like Wire and the Fall – Wire even sued the band for copyright infringement because one of their songs sounded so similar.

But that didn’t hurt them in America, and with their frontwoman Justine Frischmann dripping with the best mix of sex and danger so appropriate for rock and roll, Elastica seemed set for stardom.

Then they went into the studio to record their second album. And we waited. And waited.

Five years later, Elastica’s returned with The Menace. (Atlantic) Today’s music climate is much different than the mid-90s though, with hip-hop and bubblegum ruling the airwaves. The big questions are: does Elastica still matter, and was this album worth all the wait? Sadly, not really.

The main problem with this album is that it just sounds like the band is going through the motions. Almost like a bad Elastica cover band putting out an album in the original’s name. The elements that made Elastica’s debut so good are still here, although not in as much abundance. The songs are still off-kilter and odd, though more in a grab to get attention. The hooks are gone, or buried in the mix. Instead, more of the songs are shrill and strident rather than catchy. Mainly though, most of the songs on the album just lack energy or excitement. Instead, it seems like the band was more concerned with fulfilling a contract than putting any work into the album and it shows.

There are a couple of moments on The Menace that are notable. One track, How I Wrote The Elastica Man, has legendary Fall frontman Mark E. Smith along for the ride, contributing his growling near-incomprehensible stream-of-consciousness lyrics. It’s probably a better homage to the band’s influences than blatantly ripping them off.

Strangely, for a band that made its reputation on songs that were fast and catchy, the better moments here are songs that are slower and darker. They show that Elastica did more than just disappear into drugs and booze (if rumors are to be believed) on their extended vacation.

Human is a darker, almost dirge-like track that fits Frischmann’s icy cool vocals perfectly. The strangely titled Miami Nice, is a very haunting and minimal track with simple patterns and notes looped together. It’s akin to watching clouds on an overcast day move through the sky. My Sex is another rock-and-roll lament that sounds reminiscent of Nico with the Velvet Underground.

In the end though, Elastica shows how little they care with an insipid cover of Trio’s Da Da Da. You may remember this from those Volkswagen Bug commercials with the guys cruising around then picking up the couch. Some bands, like Blink-182, could get away with this. But Elastica always had such a cooler-than-you image, it just doesn’t fit.

Had The Menace come out soon after their debut, it might have been seen as nothing more than a sophomore slump. This late in the game though, it’s more like a hand coming out of the water in a last ditch effort to keep from drowning. Along side sub-par releases from Blur and Oasis in the last year, The Menace just goes to show that the Britpop revolution is dead and gone.

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