September 7, 2000

Stretch Marks

Print More

A lot has changed in the last five years. In 1995, I was still using my fake ID to buy Zima, Oasis still rocked, Dave Matthews was still releasing new material, pre-pubescent Britney Spears and Christina Aquilera were still Mouseketeers, and Elastica were the darlings of Britpop.

Their eponymous debut LP was a shot of adrenaline to the British music scene– a rapid-fire succession of infectiously catchy, three minute power-punk tracks. The band also enjoyed endless media attention due to front-woman Justine Frischmann’s relationship with Blur’s front-man Damon Albarn. And then, just as soon as they appeared, they were gone to wander the mysterious realm of speculation and rumor.

So, now in 2000, we find that Justine is single, the band has a new lineup, and their long-awaited second album has finally been released. The Menace was so named because it was such a pain in the ass to complete.

Unfortunately, the album actually sounds as if Justine hastily slapped the record together just to get it over with. The Menace is an odd marriage of lo-fi punk riffs and electronic effects. Returning to form, the opening track, “Mad Dog God Dam,” is an assault of distorted electric guitar and energized lyrics (“Don’t need a credit card/ To make my charge complete/ Don’t want you on your back/ I just got on my feet”). The song is marred only by weird dog bark and raygun sound effects.

Similarly, the raw energy of “Generator” is ruined by a bizarre, recurring organ melody that conjures up images of a circus. The album begins to fall apart with the song “How We Wrote Elastica Man.” It’s just a mess of noise. The track is composed of a single guitar riff and a single Moog melody. With Justine and Mew spelling E-L-A-S-T-I-C-A during the course of the song, it sounds more like a football cheer. If Toni Basil (of “Mickey” fame) ever covered Sex Pistols tunes, this is how the unholy music would sound.

The album finally hits rock bottom with “Your Arse, My Place,” a bland punk track that could easily be confused for an improvisational garage jam recording. The one saving grace of the album is “My Sex.” Here, Elastica effectively uses electronica to produce a sedated trance track reminiscent of Brian Eno’s works.

As the electronic background slowly crescendos to a climax, Justine whispers a list of things that she desires (“a lover who can love me slow/ To make your heart beat faster”).

With The Menace, Elastica is definitely going for a raw, under-produced sound. Unfortunately, except for one or two tracks, the album sounds like a garage demo tape. Songs with potential are ruined by awkward electronic accompaniments. The rest of the album consists of mediocre and underdeveloped tracks that were picked off the cutting room floor.

The Menace, sadly, is the complete antithesis of their debut album. Instead of having succinct, powerful tracks of power-punk, it is a scatter-brained and directionless sea of wacky sounds. So, one has to wonder what the hell Elastica have been doing for the last five years.

Archived article by Kouki Harasaki