ALBUM REVIEW: Elastica – The Menace

Proof that Damon Albarn didn’t write all their good songs Last year it emerged that the wife of Dick Francis helped him write his horsey thrillers. So what? Equally, who cares if Damon Albarn gave Justine Frischmann a hand writing the first Elastica album (and it is still a diplomatic “if”)?

When Elastica rose to fame and sold a million, their story was intertwined with Blur’s. Not any more. The Menace is the sound of a band letting the air out of their life-jackets. Will they float now that Brit-pop is dead and its Hugh Grant and Liz Hurley have separated? Who can predict? The fact is, it’s a surprisingly good record. Cheeky comparisons to Tears For FearsThe Seeds Of Love arise from multiple producers and time elapsed (five messy, uncertain, member-shedding years since the eponymous debut), but after numerous false starts,

The Menace was eventually recorded in six weeks flat. The resulting 13 songs are thus anything but overworked. However, compared to the angular new wave of yore, the Elastica sound has matured into something far more interesting. From the opening Mad Dog’s barking intro to the acid house squelching in KB, this is guitar music with more than a hint of keyboard. Frischmann’s vocal still owes equal debts to Poly Styrene and Polly Harvey, but the sound beneath it is a much richer stew of influences: the B-52s’ Rock Lobster says hello on How He Wrote Elastica Man (a tribute to The Fall, featuring Mark E Smith himself), Generator conjures up Spizz Energy (no, really), and there is a touch of The Marine Girls about the liltingly beautiful Nothing Stays The Same. Interestingly, the last’s chorus drifts litigiously close to Wire’s Kidney Bingos – proof that Elastica are still as generous as Oasis when it comes to giving royalties to older men.

The Menace is weakest at its most simplistic: Your Arse My Place, A Love Like Ours, the apparently sincere cover of Trio’s 1982 novelty hit Da Da Da. But the distorted dystopian instrumental Miami Nice and the open-heart surgery of the spoken My Sex (“What I want is a big love, two spoons in a drawer”) confirm that Elastica have loads more to offer than easy nostalgia.

Standout Tracks:Nothing Stays The Same, How He Wrote Elastica Man, My Sex

Track List:

1. Mad Dog God Dam

2. Generator

3. How He Wrote Elastica Man

4. Image Change

5. Your Arse My Place

6. Human

7. Nothing Stays The Same

8. Miami Nice

9. Love Like Ours

10. KB

11. My Sex

12. The Way I Like It

13. Da Da Da

Scottish Music Network May 2000

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