July 20, 2012
Britpop—real or imaginary—was a boys’ club. Sorry, but there you go. There was stoned and sassy Louise Wener, yes. We had Candida Doyle, debauched scientist of the Farfisa. Who else? Kenickie had ladies, if you count Kenickie, but do that at your peril. History may go on to reduce the amount of estrogen to be had in the prim, post-baggy generation to the chemicals found within Elastica.
Elastica’s frontwoman, Justine Frischmann, was Brett (Suede) Anderson’s girlfriend for a while, and then Damon (Blur) Albarn’s. It’s hard to imagine any pop star being able to put aside their ego in favor of a woman who writes songs like “Stutter”—maybe they should have just been thankful that Miss “If I can’t be a big star then I won’t get out of bed” was too lazy to write more of them. (Besides: songs like “Vaseline” speak of darker temptations, and we all know chart-topping music’s stance on those.) As it stands, we still have “Stutter,” which is not just the best thing to come out of Britpop, but an even more withering attack than Pulp’s “Common People.” “Common People” hit the ignorant rich in their wallets, but “Stutter” aims right for the cock.
“Is there something you lack, when I’m flat on my back, is there something that I can do for you?” Frischmann asks, but the question isn’t subservient or docile. She has the power to giveth, and to taketh away from those who aren’t giving back. Meanwhile, the rest of the band—looking in the video like an androgynous girl-gang and their male associate—rocks with brittle, buzzing fury. If a man had fronted this track, it’d be pure penetration. With Frischmann, it’s a wall of heat. The only thing keeping it from dissolving into chaos is her assured smirk, her cadence controlling the melody the same way she’s controlling the bedroom. It’s provocation of the most emasculating sort—Gillette’s “Short Dick Man” could at least be blown off for being annoying, but this is too seductive. A male listener finds no fantasy here, beyond the allure of the woman who is explicitly stating that he is not having her.
It’s possible to live one’s life and ignore class—but then, speaking as an American, I would say that, wouldn’t I? Still: sex is far more universal, far more potent, and far more able to align disparate strands of people and get them to take sides. As other Britpop acts tried to sketch pictures of society around them—imagined or otherwise—Elastica threw out “Stutter” like a Molotov cocktail, winking impishly as the booze fueled the flames. High on smack, done up in black shirts, and gifted with supernatural haircuts, Elastica never looked of a piece with the rest of the scene. Other bands concerned themselves with presenting clubbed-up and blessed-out Albion in various states of coming up and going down; next to that, a “come on and fuck me already” kind of track is kitchen-sink realism.