Elastica (Contemporary Musicians)
Punk rock/pop band
When Elastica released their self-titled debut album in 1995, the British rock group enjoyed great success in their homeland as well as in the United States. Known for their quirky, catchy songs driven by interlocking guitar rhythms, Elastica reworked the sound and image of new wave punk rockers like Adam and the Ants, Wire, the Buzzcocks, and Blondie, arriving at a more pop-oriented, hook-driven musical formula than most of their influences and a more detached, earthier presence than their predecessors. Elastica differed from their modern-day counterparts as well, allowing them to receive a warmer welcome from American audiences than most other British bands. "Unlike the punkish posturing of bands like Oasis and Echobelly, Elastica are the most Americanized of the British group, devoid of arrogant attitude, pompous self-devotion or disdain for their musical peers," Rolling Stone contributor Kara Manning said of the group. There's a kind, open-hearted quality about all four musicians, even though [Justine] Frischmann exudes an elegant cool any woman would envy."
Although touted by the music press as the "Next Big Thing" both at home and abroad, watching a string of singles climb the British and American charts, Elastica and their future soon became the subject of much media speculation. Problems arose among the band members; unable to finish writing songs for a follow-up album, Elastica reportedly folded in 1998, though a spokesperson for the group later said that the group never officially disbanded. However, after numerous lineup changes and overcoming writers block, Elastica returned in 2000 with a new album entitled The Menace. And while the rock world, known for its short attention span, usually forgets about groups after prolonged absences, fans and critics alike enthusiastically welcomed Elastica back into the fold.
Lead vocalist and guitarist Justine Frischmann, couldn't be happier that the group decided to tough it out, rather than give up altogether. "Everything went ridiculously right with the first record; absolutely everything seemed to fall into place," she explained to Paul Sexton in Billboard magazine. 'Then, as life has a habit of doing, it went just as wrong. For me, it was a process of growing up and working out what it was that attracted me to making music in the first place. It became kind of an obsession." But in 1999, Frischmann regrouped Elastica, joined by a new lineup comprised of original members Annie Holland and Justin Welch on bass guitar and drums respectively, plus new members Paul Jones on guitar, Dave Bush on keyboards, and Sharon Mew (also known as "Mews") on keyboards and backing vocals. They made their "comeback" performance debut that summer at the Reading Festival, a pivotal moment that reinvigorated Elastica, leading them to scrap the recordings they had made up to that point and start anew. Soon thereafter, the band released an EP, followed by their long-overdue sophomore effort.
Perseverance and self-preservation are nothing new to Frischmann, who, as one of the original members of Suede, experienced the glare of the limelight firsthand. Although that group hadn't quite hit it big by the time Frischmann left, she would later gain much publicity, often negative, for living with Suede singer and co-founder Brett Anderson, then dumping him in favor of Blur's Damon Albarn. The daughter of a singer and a well-known architect, the engineer of London's NatWest skyscraper, Frischmann meanwhile decided to drop her musical aspirations after her relationship with Anderson and Suede ended, and went on to study architecture at University College London.
However, one day while listening to P.J. Harvey and designing a car park, Frischmann realized how much she missed music and, in 1992 in London, formed Elastica with Welch, whom she befriended during his very brief tenure in Suede. Annie Holland, a guitarist, borrowed a bass guitar for her audition, while Welsh-born guitarist Donna Matthews answered a Melody Maker advertisement calling for a player influenced by the Fall, the Stranglers, and Wire. She impressed Frischmann first by not mentioning Suede as an influence, but most importantly with her gutsy, lead-guitar finesse. Matthews, who "plays all the complicated parts," confessed Frischmann to Manning, immediately got the job.
Elastica Become Pop Stars
When Elastica hit the club circuit, they quickly established themselves with a brittle, high-tempo sound and a collection of short, yet well-crafted songs. At the end of 1993, after signing with the independent Deceptive label, Elastica released their first single, "Stutter," a limited-edition record that sold out in just one day thanks to radio play and rave reviews. The band's second single, "Line Up," released in 1994, went straight to the British top 20, and the subsequent follow-ups, 1994's "Connection" and 1995's "Waking Up," reiterated Elastica's punk origins.
These songs, although instant hits, nevertheless suffered criticism for sounding too much like songs of previous bands. Some critics claimed that with the single "Line Up," Elastica appropriated the melody from Wire's "I Am the Fly." Likewise, "Connection," the band's biggest hit, was accused by some reviewers for taking the keyboard riff from Wire's 'Three Girl Rhumba." Consequently, in March of 1995, on the eve of the release of their full-length debut, Elastica was taken to court by Wire's publishers, as well as the publishers of the Stranglers, who claimed that "Waking Up" used the guitar riff from that group's "No More Heroes." Elastica hurriedly settled both cases out of court before the release of the album.
In spite of these legal troubles, Elastica earned rave reviews and entered the British album chart at number one. Moreover, the record became the fastest-selling debut in British chart history, beating the record set by Oasis' Definitely Maybe just seven months earlier. Issued on Geffen Records in the United States, the album also fared well in America, where "Connection" became a modern rock radio hit. Elastica spent much of 1995 cracking the United States, including a stint on the Lollapalooza tour as Sinead O'Connor's replacement.
However, Elastica would also begin a series of lineup changes that year. Holland, who readily admits to disliking gigs, was unable to cope with constant touring and the overall lifestyle that accompanies playing in a popular band. Her replacement, an American named Abby Travis, known for her work with Beck, Mommy, the Abby Travis Foundation, and a new band called Botanica, filled in during Lollapalooza. After about a year with Elastica, she too departed, finding that traveling between the United States and England just didn't work out. In 1997, the band enlisted Sheila Chipperfield as Elastica's new bass player, then recruited Dave Bush, formerly of the Fall, as a permanent keyboard player.
Still trying to hold the band together, Elastica were nonetheless by now under considerable speculation by the media, who questioned whether or not the group would endure. Although they had played some songs for the Radio One "Evening Session," Elastica had not released any new material since 1995. By 1998, Elastica's future still appeared questionable; Holland rejoined the band on bass, Chipperfield, no longer needed, departed; Matthews left the group because of a breakdown in personal and creative relationships, Paul Jones, formerly of Linoleum, replaced Matthews on guitar, and Mew, a former member of Heave, joined as an additional keyboard player and vocalist.
Amid continued rumors of a breakup, Elastica struck back in April of 1999 with a six-song EP of unreleased and new material, featuring songs written in 1996 and 1997 while Matthews and Chipperfield were still members of the band. All of the songs, according to the band, reflected different phases of Elastica's development; "Nothing Stays the Same" is a home tape by Matthews, "Miami Nice," is a home recording by Frischmann and Lawrence Hardy of the now-defunct band Kingmaker, and "Operate" is a live recording with Matthews. The remaining tracks, "Generator," "How He Wrote Elastica Man," and "KB" were recorded with the new Elastica lineup.
With Elastica apparently intact and feeling a renewed sense of enthusiasm for their music, the band in April of 2000 released The Menace. Expected hits from the album, which are more evolved, noted critics, than the band's debut, included "Mad Dog" and "Love Like Ours." Frischmann, who has since mended her relationship with Matthews, felt confident about the new lineup. "It's really great," she said to Carol Clerk of melody Maker. "It just feels like a lot of wounds have healed, and I think we just all feel a bit older, and it just doesn't seem as serious. It's more fun."
Elastica, Deceptive/Geffen, 1995.
The Menace, Deceptive, 2000.
Buckley, Jonathan and others, editors, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.
Billboard, April 1, 2000
Los Angeles Times, March 16, 1995; December 30, 1995; February 16, 1997.
Melody Maker, November 8, 1997; July 31, 1999; August 7, 1999; September 4, 1999; February 2-8, 2000.
New Musical Express, February 12, 2000.
People, May 8, 1995.
Rolling Stone, May 4, 1995; January 25, 1996.
Stereo Review, September 1995.
Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (June 19, 2000).
Spas2000n Elastica Fan Homepage, http://www.geocities.com/SouthBeach/Lights/2253 (June 19, 2000).