By: Eric G.
Let's face it, the bag of tricks was pretty small to begin with- Justine Frischmann had a sexy haircut, good taste in music, and a famous boyfriend. Now she looks like Chrissie Hynde, has the same taste in music she did five years ago, and Damon Albarn has long since moved on. Elastica may have plundered freely through Wire's early catalogue, but the band showed enough spunk at least to seem threatening to the whole Brit Pop movement back in 1995. Five years on and Elastica hardly seems like a band at all much less a threat to any scene. Guitarist Donna Matthews bolted after very public rows with Frischmann, but it's all water under the bridge now because The Menace is a snooze.
Maybe, it would be an interesting story if the band hadn't pulled a Tears For Fears, er, I mean, a Stone Roses by waiting five years to make another record. The sheer gall it must take to think you'd still be relevant after five years of nothing just shows how disproportionate a rock star's ego can be compared to anyone's in the real world. Nobody ever accused Elastica of making deep music, but depth can be sacrificed for other strengths. The old Elastica rocked. The new Elastica tries to rock, but ends up sounding like a stale, idea-less shell of its former self.
Elastica has moved on to Wire's Chairs Missing for its current thievery, and it's even employed a true post-punk icon to join the heist. Mark E. Smith adds some level of credibility to "How He Wrote Elastica Man", but it sounds more like exploitation than reverence. The other songs on The Menace are barely worth noting. Hell, half of them appeared on last year's Six Track EP, anyway. On the EP they seemed to promise an experimental direction. Their subsequent recycling as album tracks sounds desperate and suspect. The best song on the album is a solo demo by Donna Matthews, "Nothing Stays The Same", which was, of course, previously released on the aforementioned EP.
Elastica's faults (awkward song structures, weak lyrics) were easy to overlook in the beginning, but now they stick out and practically beg for attention. Here's a line from "Your Arse, My Place": "your hard/I'm not/you're shit/shit hot…get with it baby." This was printed on the sleeve. What happened to melody? Barring, maybe, three songs (including a cover of Trio's "Da Da Da"), I dare you to remember a single snippet of melody, or phrase, or guitar line from this album. It's a jumbled mess. The vocals are buried in distortion. The songs lack direction and sound half-finished. If you don't want to burst your bubble for Elastica avoid The Menace and just keep those memories of the band that wrote "Stutter" and "Line Up" and "Annie" untainted.