44. Elastica, Elastica
I owe the 1995 on-air lineup of 90FM an apology. Down around #67 on our chart, I groused that the self-titled debut of Elastica didn’t show up anywhere on this list. Turns out my research methods were highly faulty, because the post-punk sensation out of London is right here, very respectably taking up territory right around the midpoint of the year-end tally. If the attention heaped on Elastica almost makes this placement seem modest, they were also one of those bands that endured one of those rapid-fire turn-arounds from hyped adoration to snippy backlash.
Part of what shifted the collective cool kid perception of Elastica was the pile up of accusations that band lapsed from homage to outright theft with some of their songs. “Line Up” bears a clear resemblance to Wire’s “I Am the Fly,” and the same band’s “Three Girl Rhumba” provides the killer riff for Elastica’s hit single “Connection.” It’s hard to deny the problematic similarities, but that doesn’t necessarily diminish the appeal of the album. Sometimes it’s about the style and panache that a band bring to familiar work, how well they add the bursts of personality and rollicking energy that can make reworked, even lightly pilfered material their own. Sure, “Line Up” isn’t wholly original. I’m not sure how much that bothers me when the screeching guitars see-saw like the song itself is about to pop its rivets and shudder apart.
There are plenty of winners spread across the sixteen tracks of Elastica: the fab chug of “Car Song,” the happy, punky vibe of “Smile,” and the surprisingly tender “Waking Up.” Great as the sharp, punching grooves of the album are, there’s definitely a sense that Elastica is a band with one gear. When they try to expand the palette a bit, the results are questionable if not exactly bad. Twenty years on and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the neo-psychedelia of “Indian Song,” for example. The peaks of the album are downright dazzling, though. There were few singles in 1995 more satisfying than the blazing “Stutter,” a track that also carried for a brash, uncompromising view of sexuality that’s one of the more distinctive aspects of Elastica. Ending the album with an ode to the usefulness of “Vaseline” (“When you’re stuck like glue”) makes it pretty clear that there’s a certain casual fearlessness about deploying bawdier material on an unsuspecting listenership.
The promise of Elastica was never fully realized. It took years, a few false starts, and several changes to group’s roster before their sophomore effort was released. The Menace was released in 2000 to resounding indifference. A year later, the band called it quits, seemingly for good. Everyone has moved on, giving no indication that a reunion is much of a possibility.
The Grapes were a band from Atlanta that drew on some heavy influences from nineteen-sixties bands, notably the Grateful Dead. In fact, the San Francisco stalwarts of hippie jams were so central in their sway over the band that the original name they used was the Dreadful Grapes, because it was a deliberate tangle of the Grateful Dead used to introduce them at a nineteen-seventies concert. From what I can find of the band’s music online, they certainly seem like a passel of musicians who’s share the bill with Phish and play loads of pot festivals. Private Stock was the band’s first release on Intersound Records and their third overall. They had one more record in them, 1997’s Juice, before shutting things down, in part because they were worn out from extensive touring. They still play regular reunion shows in Atlanta.
Hailing from Lawrence, Kansas, Paw was a band that had the right sound at the right time, at least in order to get themselves from a major label. In their case, it was A&M Records, which was forever trying to capitalize on whatever seemed to be generating attention on the left end of the dial, usually with fairly clumsy attempts. The music on their second album, Death to Traitors, sounds like generic grunge to me. Death to Traitors was their last full-length albums, but there are a dizzying number of side projects, reunions (and quasi-reunions), and flotsam and jetsam releases, more than I care to sort through, quite frankly.
— An Introduction
— 90-88: The Falling Wallendas, Parasite, and A.M.
— 87-85: North Avenue Wake Up Call, Live!, and Life Begins at 40 Million
— 84 and 83: Wholesale Meats and Fishes and Orange
— 82-80: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, Fossil, and Electric Rock Music
— 79-77: Coast to Coast Motel, My Wild Life, and Life Model
— 76-74: Gag Me with a Spoon, Where I Wanna Be, and Ruby Vroom
— 73 and 72: Horsebreaker Star and Wild-Eyed and Ignorant
— 71 and 70: 500 Pounds and Jagged Little Pill
— 69-67: Whirligig, The Basketball Diaries, and On
— 66 and 65: Alice in Chains and Frogstomp
— 64 and 63: Happy Days and Exit the Dragon
— 62-60: Lucky Dumpling, Fight for Your Mind, and Short Bus
— 59-57: Good News from the Next World, Joe Dirt Car, and Tomorrow the Green Grass
— 56 and 55: …And Out Come the Wolves and Clueless
— 54-52: We Get There When We Do, Trace, and Twisted
— 51-49: Thrak, Stoney’s Extra Stout (Pig), and You Will Be You
— 48 and 47: Shamefaced and Here’s Where the Strings Come In
— 46 and 45: 13 Unlucky Numbers and Resident Alien