“The token girl playing guitar in the back”: that’s how a fed-up Justine Frischmann described her stint in Suede, the band she’d formed with then-boyfriend Brett Anderson in 1989. At personal loggerheads with Anderson after she left him for his arch-rival, Blur’s Damon Albarn, she formed her own group in 1992 with drummer Justin Welch (another early Suede outcast), bassist Annie Holland and guitarist Donna Matthews. That may all sound like a Britpop version of EastEnders, but Elastica soon proved they had something far more substantial to offer. The succinct punchiness of early singles ‘Stutter’, ‘Line Up’ and ‘Connection’ quickly turned heads – ex-NME journo Steve Lamacq, in particular, began championing them on his BBC Radio 1 show and signed them to his label, Deceptive Records.
The story behind the sleeve
Renowned German fashion photographer Juergen Teller, who has worked with artists including Sinéad O’Connor, Björk and Elton John, took the black-and-white snap for Elastica’s debut – a cover that, with its sparse, sparing style, stood apart from the elaborate and conceptual sleeves favoured by Blur and Suede.
Did you know?
1. Now-defunct music paper Melody Maker ran a competition asking fans to name Elastica’s debut LP, but reader’s suggestions – including ‘Edible Liar’ and ‘Tie Me Up And Give Me Toast’ – were all rejected by the band.
2. Another title, ‘Keys, Money And Fags’ – a lyric from ‘Line Up’ – was also nixed due to fears that American fans would have a different interpretation of the word ‘fags’.
3. Damon Albarn contributed keyboards to ‘Elastica’, but the band chose not to credit him with his real name – the pseudonym Dan Abnormal was used instead.
4. Donna Matthews has claimed that the mysterious acronym of the track ‘SOFT’ stands for ‘Same Old Fucking Things’.
5. The Stranglers and Wire took issue with Elastica’s debut: Wire claimed that both ‘Line Up’ and ‘Connection’ ripped them off, while The Stranglers alleged that ‘Waking Up’ borrowed from ‘No More Heroes’. Both bands received out-of-court settlements as a result of the legal disputed.
“My heart’s spaghetti junction/Every shining bonnet/ Makes me think of my back on it” – ‘Car Song’
Justine’s saucy, JG Ballard-style tribute to getting steamy in motor vehicles.
“Drivel head knows all the stars/Loves to suck their shining guitars” – ‘Line Up’
Having been in the orbit of both Blur and Suede, Justine was no stranger to groupies. Here, she takes a pot shot at those fans desperate to cop off with a musician.
“We were sitting in waiting/ And I told you my plan/ You were far too busy writing/ Words that didn’t scan” – ‘Never Here’
This was reportedly written about Frischmann’s split with Anderson, taking a vengeful sideswipe at his songwriting.
What we said then
“Fun, loveable and exciting, Elastica’s debut burps out of the speakers like a pissed kid on a spacehopper.” Johnny Dee, NME, March 3, 1995
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What we say now
It deserves to be celebrated just as much as Britpop contemporaries like ‘Different Class’, ‘Definitely Maybe’, ‘Dog Man Star’ and ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’: punchy and acidic, full of catchy-as-fuck singles and not an ounce of fat.
“It summed everything up at the time. Elastica and Suede were at this pre-Britpop tipping point, when it was still dirty and exciting – when it was still ours. If you can live on that tipping point, being on the verge of the mainstream and it still belonging to you, that is where the real excitement comes about music.” – Ricky Wilson, Kaiser Chiefs
In their own words
“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, 1995
Momentum can be squandered far more easily can it can be gained. Just ask Elastica: after the success of their debut, they took their sweet time to make a follow-up. Matthews and Holland both split before the record was released, and the rest of the band decided to re-record all the material in 1999 (with new contributions from The Fall’s Mark E Smith and Damon Albarn again). By the time the patchy ‘The Menace’ was released in 2000, the Britpop bubble had long burst. The band amicably called it a day the following year, and Frischmann turned her back on music to become a visual artist in the US.
Release date: March 13, 1995
Producers: Marc Waterman, Elastica
Studio: Konk, London
Highest UK Chart position: 1
Singles: ‘Stutter’, ‘Line Up’, ‘Connection’, ‘Car Song’, ‘Waking Up’
Tracklisting: 1. Line Up 2. Annie 3. Connection 4. Car Song 5. Smile 6. Hold Me Now 7. SOFT 8. Indian Song 9. Blue 10. All Nighter 11. Waking Up 12. 2:1, Vaseline 13. Never Here 14. Shutter