“I think we’ve made a record you can put on from start to finish without feeling like you want to kick the cat. You could put it on as you’re going out, before you go to sleep, or when you’re having sex,” Justine Frischmann told the NME in 1995 of her band’s self-titled debut.
The story of how Elastica came to be involves the frontwoman’s rather interesting position at the centre of one of the most fascinating love triangles of the ‘90s.
She had formed Suede in 1989 with her then-boyfriend Brett Anderson, but soon came to the realization that the band’s overwrought, dark romanticism was not her bag. She was keener on short, sharp, smart punk inspired bursts, and she delivered it with an untouchably cool detachment.
In 2002, she told The Guardian, “I have a low boredom threshold. I want the best bits - verse-chorus, verse-chorus, that's it. The whole thing of playing middle eights and triple choruses to finish isn't music, it's brainwashing. If you want to hear the chorus again, rewind it.”
“Also, I don't feel any kind of need to bare myself in public. I'm not into angst. Someone like Brett has a lot of ghosts to exorcise. I don't. I've always liked humour in music.”
Aside from that, she wasn’t into “…being the token girl playing guitar in the back” as she told NME about her eventual departure from Suede.
Frischmann split from the band, and Anderson, in 1991 before striking up a relationship with Damon Albarn, frontman for a then-fledgling Blur, and starting her own group.
Out front on Elastica, one gets healthy lashings of Frischmann’s prickly sense of humour in lines ‘Let’s go siesta in your Ford Fiesta’ (on ‘Car Song’) and ‘No need to white boy / like a wind-up toy you stutter at my feet’ (on ‘Stutter’).
There’s plenty of pout and seediness in ‘All-Nighter’, ‘Smile’ and ‘Vaseline’. But elsewhere she brings piercing personal details to bear.
On ‘Never Here’, a song about her breakup with Anderson, she sings ‘We were sitting in waiting, And I told you my plan / You were far too busy writing, Rhymes that didn’t scan’.
Though Elastica was met with enthusiastic reviews, chart success, and extensive touring, the band was dogged by claims of being rip off merchants for too closely referencing Wire’s ‘Three Girl Rhumba’ (on ‘Connection’) and ‘I Am The Fly’ (on ‘Line Up’).
Additionally, The Stranglers’ publishers noted ‘Waking Up’ bore strong similarities to the song ‘No More Heroes’.
JJ Burnel of The Stranglers had a very different view of the dispute, telling The Independent in 1995, “Yes it sounds like us, but so what? Of course, there’s plagiarism but unless you live in a vacuum there’s always going to be. It’s the first thing our publishers have done for us in 20 years, but if it had been up to me, I wouldn’t have bothered.”
Likewise, Wire’s Colin Newman saw Elastica’s songs as the gesture that they were intended as, saying “They’re genuine fans who probably see themselves as brining the music they love to a wider audience.”
Frischmann elaborated on the matter in a German TV interview; “I think in the ‘90s, it’s hard to make music that isn’t self-referential if you’re making music with a classic line up of drums, bass and guitars.”
“By the time I was born The Beatles and The [Rolling] Stones had kind of done everything that truly could be done with rock n roll, so in a way, I think it’s impossible to be truly ground-breaking now.”
She added that Elastica’s chemistry was obviously “a different combination of people and influences to any group before. I don’t claim that we’re culturally relevant, we’re just enjoying what we’re doing.”
The fun was not to last long though. Extensive touring took a toll on Elastica’s relationships, drug habits spiralled out of control, and the pressure to make a follow-up all contributed to the band’s demise not long after 2000’s The Menace was released.
With the benefit of hindsight, Frischmann told BBC6 that she would have done things differently had she been a stronger person.
“I felt like we did what we were meant to do after the first album and I should have at that point called it a day,” she said.
“I felt like we had a such good run with that first record… It was a really good first record and it kind of stopped being fun at a certain point during the touring… For me, it just got too big and there was too much pressure, and I do regret not just walking away from it, I just wasn’t brave enough to do that.”
Regrets aside, Elastica’s self-titled debut is a prime example of not necessarily needing to have a large, critically lauded back catalogue to be judged as having made an impact on music. One sneering, urgent, lusty album brimming with swagger does the trick too.