Boxset Review: Elastica – The 7″ Singles

It’s 1995 again.  My sister and her boyfriend have returned from Glastonbury on a high, and possibly, actually high.  I’m 15 and jealous.  A bad combo.  But then my sister’s boyfriend gifts me an original Elastica long-sleeved t-shirt. I love it.  I loved Elastica.  What an album that was; released in March of that year, Elastica’s debut studio album, the fastest selling debut album in UK history, signed to Steve Lamacq’s label – Deceptive Records, additional keyboards by Dan Abnormal (aka Damon Albarn), album cover snapped by renowned German fashion photographer, Juergen Teller.  It sold a million copies worldwide and was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize.  Elastica remains a cult classic.     

It’s now June 12th, 2021, Record Store Day.  Rough Trade Records have released 1,000 copies of an Elastica 7” Singles Box Set, collecting the band’s first four seven-inch singles, plus an exclusive bonus disc selected especially for RSD.  It’s the first time each release’s artwork has been reproduced since they were originally put out.  Having re-pressed their debut album and created a BBC Sessions collection for previous RSDs, it makes sense that this boxset will be available first for Record Store Day 2021.  The press release states that “due to the phasing out of the seven-inch single format by some sections of the music industry in the 1990s, Elastica’s original singles were initially released in very small, limited numbers, which sold out immediately, making it very hard for fans to get hold of them until now.”

I’m trying to imagine myself in 1995, a teenage Elastica fan, and as the 41-year-old fan I still am today.  Box set track-listing – let’s do this: starting with ‘Stutter’, a brilliant strong song and the fast punk-rock guitar still holds up today.   The B-side is a track called ‘Pussycat’ – it’s got that great, fuzzy, scratchy, hazy-90s-grunge-bedroom guitar sound.  ‘Connection’ is such a British rock classic, I defy you to hear that in a club and not air guitar and air drum that beginning.  Synths, hand claps (hand claps are EVERYTHING), Justin Welch’s signature drumming, see/hear Lush for more of the same (and more hand claps), 2:21 minutes of perfection. The B-side, ‘See that Animal’, I’d not heard this before and it sounds very current, the harmonies are great, a strong second side although the riff on this jarred with me slightly.   I used to love the simplicity of ‘Line Up’ and the zombie groaning/belching sound effects, it had an unsettling, off-putting quality to it that I really liked, like nails down a blackboard.  Its B-side, ‘Vaseline’, was always an unusual favourite with me for the punk rock, the energy, one you can shout and jump to.  If you can still jump. 

‘Waking Up’ was Elastica’s closest to a Britpop indie classic, as well as ‘Connection’ though this one always turned up on a Shine compilation.  The ultimate test!  I actually have the quote “make a cup of tea, put a record on” in pride of place on my living room wall – my favourite part of the whole song, reminding us that Frischmann’s lyrics were fun, of their time, infectious and observational.  The B-sides to ‘Waking Up’ included ‘Gloria’, which ironically, is very Patti Smith-esque and experimental, the use of the band’s vocals brings an extra layer.  There’s also ‘Brighton Rock’, I can see why this didn’t end up on the album, though it’s very Britpop-y, very Blur influenced.  Finally, ‘Car Wash’, I love the beats and keyboard, I liked this a lot, it sounded very contemporary in a DIY style. 

Elastica went on to record a 6-track EP in 1999, before releasing their second album, The Menace, in April 2000.  There were some Radio 1 Sessions in October 2001, then lead singer Justine Frischmann, retired from the music industry and moved to Colorado to pursue a career as a painter.  Welch, Mew and Jones stayed in music, Matthews is a pastor in Devon.  Elastica changed everything for me, in terms of being inspired as a young woman who wanted to be in a band, who played guitar, who wrote songs, yet surrounded by the male dominated music industry reflected in the magazines I read, and TV I watched from the so-called Britpop scene, the NME front covers of the 90s were rarely female led.  From 1992-2001, Elastica were trailblazers and a huge part of the British indie rock chapter of the time.  They were my favourite band.  This box set is a trip you’ll want to return to.  I wish I still had that t-shirt. 

Get your copy of this limited edition release at your local independent record shop, search online for your nearest store on the official Record Store Day website.

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Review by Jo Overfield

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