Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Aug. 15, 2003
ElasticaThe Radio One Sessions (Strange Fruit/Koch) "Truly, they were the Strokes of their day," proclaims NME on the sticker affixed to Elastica's posthumous BBC-sessions compilation. If this analogy actually holds true, the Strokes are in a heap of trouble. Adding pop polish to Wire's edgy art-punk, Elastica immediately became the darlings of the British press in 1994 with the one-two-three punch of "Stutter," "Line Up," and "Connection." Elastica's first album was the fastest-selling debut in British music history, and singer Justine Frischmann's romance with Blur's Damon Albarn sold many a tabloid. Then the band began unraveling in a morass of heroin and personnel changes. By the time Elastica returned with 2000's The Menace, Frischmann's sex-sneer persona verged on self-parody. Fortunately, most of The Radio One Sessions was recorded 1993/94, when the band was in raw form. The quick-in/quick-out format of BBC sessions lend grit and urgency to tunes like "Vaseline" and "Four Wheeling" (aka "Car Song"). Although it doesn't include "Stutter" or "Connection," the album fills in the gaps between Elastica and The Menace with solid nonalbum tracks like the previously unreleased "Ba Ba Ba" and "All for Gloria," a cheeky reworking of "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" from John Peel's 1994 Christmas session. The stopgap 1996 BBC take of "Only Human" is icy-hot compared to the Menace version. Unfortunately, Elastica's final BBC session in 1999 reconfirms what a profound disappointment The Menace was. Did the world really need a cover of Trio's "Da Da Da"? Otherwise, The Radio One Sessions makes a worthy companion to Elastica's still-essential debut.