Monday, 2 June 2008
Underrated Album of the Week (for Rob)
It's been duly noted by Musick's one sole reader that this weekly feature has been anything but, with only one edition appearing so far. This is clearly a postmodern manipulation of the very idea of 'weekly', a semantic interpretation of the realms of time and space. Ahem. So, without further ado, the weekly column returneth...
You know when you hear people talking about 'those difficult second albums' they may be thinking about Elastica's forever delayed follow-up to 1995's self-titled debut. The Menace was released in 2000 long after everyone had given up hope that it would ever see the light of day, resulting in a chart peak of no. 24 (their debut album had reached no. 1). Without the Britpop hullabaloo to support it and coming at a time when dad rock was just taking off again (cheers Coldplay) the album was widely ignored. But listening to The Menace now there's much to admire among its 13 tracks. Songs like the brilliant 'Mad Dog Gad Dam', 'Generator', 'KB' and 'Your Arse My Place' are as good as the songs from their debut whilst The Menace also stretches their musical chops, taking in everything from The Breeders ('Human') to Eno-esque soundscapes on 'Miami Nice' and 'My Sex'. They also pay homage to one of their heroes, Mark E. Smith, with the Fall-aping 'How He Wrote Elastica Man' on which the man himself also appears.
The album's lack of success wasn't helped by the fact that the band chose a cover as the first single ('Da Da Da' originally by Trio), which takes some balls (read petulance) when you've kept your fans waiting for five years before releasing any 'new' material. Factor in the fact that the album was written and recorded following singer Justine Frischmann's much-publicised split with Blur's Damon Albarn and the subsequent commercial and critical failure only added to the ammunition of the (mainly male) music critics who had always maintained that Elastica's songs were written by Albarn. It's fair to say that The Menace is a tetchy, troubled album (lots of drugs were consumed during it's protracted genesis), one that shifts around just as you're beginning to get to grips with it but it's far from the failure people might label it as.
Fact: The artwork was done by none other then Maya Arulpragasam...aka singer/rapper/global style icon M.I.A, who was studying at Art college and used to crash on Justine Frischmann's floor. It's a fact, I didn't say it was an interesting one.