Like a stylish cat burglar whose cunning audacity is matched by a discriminating notion of what’s worth taking, London’s Elastica can easily be forgiven (at least after all debts were paid) for the indiscretions of its esoteric class-of-’77 appropriations. As the quartet’s debut album gathered commercial momentum in England, a hornet’s nest of legal trouble was stirred into action as rights holders for songs by Wire (compare Elastica’s “Connection” to “Three Girl Rhumba,” from that group’s 1977 debut LP) and the Stranglers (“Waking Up” clearly recycles the chord structure of “No More Heroes”) raised plagiarism claims against Elastica’s most overtly derivative numbers. Given the Knack traces, Flying Lizards beats, Wire hooks and other familiar elements teasingly littered throughout the album, Elastica could probably have settled for being a new wave cover band, but Elastica’s value goes deeper than simple influence-peddling.
Along with drummer Justin Welch, singer/guitarist Justine Frischmann formed the group after an early stint playing guitar in Suede. Her authoritative, self-amused voice and the grunting throb of Annie Holland’s rubbery bass are Elastica’s most distinctive markings. (Guitarist Donna Matthews was reportedly attracted by a Melody Maker ad that specifically named the Stranglers and Wire, as well as the as-yet-inaudible Fall). Throughout the sixteen deceptively luxurious three-minute songs on Elastica, Frischmann gets firm and robust support from her bandmates, who help wrap her playful lyrics — often as not forthright commentaries on the joy of sex (or the desire for it, or groupies who trade in it, or products that aid in it, or boys who can’t do it — you get the idea) — in bracingly tuneful and jagged rock, a mobile mass laced up tight with cool studio tricks. Highlights of a diverse and highly impressive debut: “Line Up” (complete with a rhythmic retch sample), the wiggly and thuggish techno-meets-noise-rock “Connection” (in which Frischmann executes a credible female Hugh Cornwell impression), the sleepy and slithery “Hold Me Now” and the merry Buzzcockian punk-pop of “All-Nighter.”
Released as Elastica’s introduction to America following a series of highly touted British singles and EPs, Stutter surrounds the album track-a sexual challenge to a drunk non-performer and the song that unveiled the band to Britain in late ’93 — with radio-session versions of the album’s “Annie” and “2:1,” plus the understandably discarded “Rockunroll.”
After a long-delayed second album, Elastica officially disbanded in late 2001.