10 reasons elastica’s debut album rules 20 years on
On its 20th birthday, we remind you why “Elastica” deserves a thumbs up!
Tomorrow, Elastica's classic debut album turns 20 years old. Released on March 14, 1995, all spiky guitar hooks and spunky lyrics, Elastica rocketed straight to the top of the UK albums chart, becoming the fastest-selling British debut ever. It went on to earn a gold disc in the US and sell over a million copies worldwide. The album also made stars of the London-based band — guitarist Donna Matthews, drummer Justin Welch, bassist Annie Holland and front woman Justine Frischmann, who had been an i-D cover star the year before. To celebrate its birthday, here are 10 reasons why Elastica is one of the defining records of the Britpop era and remains an absolute blast today.
1. Its 15 tracks rattle by in less than 40 minutes. Elastica is fast, fun and frantic. There's not a scrap of fat on its bones.
2. It's an album driven by Frischmann's aloof cool and an infectious sense of "I don't give a f***." In fact, Elastica were cocky enough to nick guitar riffs from two of their favorite punk bands, Wire and The Strangers, resulting in a couple of out-of-court settlements. Elastica always borrow smartly and stylishly though, and The Stranglers' drummer Jet Black even thanked them for introducing his band to a new generation of fans.
3. One of the tracks which provoked legal action, "Connection," later became the opening theme to UK hidden camera show Trigger Happy TV. If a song can survive being associated with an obnoxious man shouting "HELLO!" into an oversized cell phone for three years in the early noughties, it's really earned the right to be called a banger.
4. In practice, having sex in a car is tricky and potentially perilous — eek, watch that gear stick! But Elastica's "Car Song" makes it sound properly hot. "Every shining bonnet makes me think of my back on it," Frischmann purrs in the second verse, shortly before rhyming "Honda" with "Peter Fonda". Genius — and they got Spike Jonze to direct the video.
5. "Car Song" isn't even the album's sexiest track. "Vaseline" is a funny, filthy delight with Frischmann yelping: "When you're stuck like glue — vaseline! When you're black and blue — vaseline!" Is she really singing about what you think she's singing about? Yes she is.
6. Frischmann's then-boyfriend Damon Albarn plays keyboards on the album, but gets credited under the pseudonym "Dan Abnormal."
7. Albarn's presence is felt elsewhere too. It's pretty safe to presume the Blur frontman inspires the album's most contemplative moment, penultimate track "Never Here," on which Frischmann questions a life of "too much TV and curry" with a guy who's "far too busy writing rhymes that didn't scan". The couple's tabloid-friendly seven-year relationship eventually came to an end in 1998.
8. The album's biggest hit, "Waking Up," is a sarcastic but horribly relatable slacker anthem. Check out Frischmann's opening salvo: "I'd work very hard but I'm lazy / I can't take the pressure and it's starting to show." Later in the song she nails the ritual of procrastination in just nine words: "Make a cup of tea, put a record on." If Girls had been around in 1995, Lena Dunham would surely have begged to have this song on the soundtrack.
9. "Stutter" is one of the album's catchiest tracks — and it's about a guy who can't get it up. "You've had too much wine to stumble up my street," Frischmann sings with a wink. Babes, it happens to the best of us.
10. Elastica so encapsulates everything that was great about this feisty, zeitgeist-grabbing band that they didn't seem to know how to follow it up. A six-track EP of odds and sods came out in 1998, before Elastica finally released their second album, The Menace, in 2000. The band announced their split the following year and Frischmann relocated to California to become a painter. Don't expect a cash-in reunion tour any time soon.
Cover star Justine Frishmann, Photography Jeurgen Teller.
[The Talent Issue, No. 125, February 1994]