Elastica: Mad Dog God Dam
ow odd that a record that took five years to make was too early. Elastica came along too soon; if they’d started out in, say, 2002 there probably still would have been some hay made over the whole “Three Girl Rhumba”/”Connection” thing, but these days we don’t seem to mind if our bands are blatantly derivative, as long as they do it well. And boy, did they ever.
I still have friends who swear Elastica is THE rock album of the 90s, and I’ve got to admit it holds up pretty well. But my heart is with The Menace. If the debut was their Buzzcocks/early Wire record, The Menace is their Fall/later Wire one (and not just because Mark E. Smith is lurking around). And nothing could have been more thrillingly apparent to me once I heard the beginning of “Mad Dog God Dam.”
It’s fake dog barking, see? First one channel, then the next, then that great blippy keyboard part, and finally the fucked up drum loop and the bursts of feedback and laser noises. It’s catchy as hell, just like the first album, but it’s not nearly as classicist (the reason my friends love the debut, and justly so). It’s not danceable not really, but there’s something in it that presages the brief spurt of electroclash that came later.
I agree that Elastica’s two records seem sort of superficially similar, but once you dig into the songs, that impression vanishes near instantly. Look at the chorus of “Mad Dog God Dam”; the drum power up, serious compressed guitar roars in like the ocean, that bleepy keyboard (which is awesome and winds up providing most of the hooks on the album) hits the part of your brain which feels pleasure, Justine is yelling “big dog, sick dog, yeah yeah yeah” like she doesn’t care and Mew is screaming something in the background. It’s not really a chorus so much as a big red self-destruct button whacked repeatedly.
“Mad Dog God Dam” is a song I am utterly in love with structurally and sonically; the lyrics are okay, and manage the traditional Elastica trick of being sexy as hell and empowering sounding without actually, you know, being about anything. But it’s really about the gnashing percussion in the run up to the chorus, the almost piano-like bass, the weird way it all fits together perfectly and of course the sheer overload of the chorus. How anyone could listen to this and “Stutter” back to back and decide the two albums are the same I don’t know; their debut is the record the Libertines will probably never make, but The Menace is only tenuously rock, especially here. And the fact remains that if you stop playing count-the-influences and ignore whatever baggage you have with the band, this kills every time.
By: Ian Mathers
Published on: 2005-01-26