Maybe The Menace sounds bracing next to better albums because these tough female harmonies are as pop-sure as they are cocksure, so high on their own pose that the results feel both obvious and effective. Hell, we need the obvious and effective in rock 'n' roll. We also need guilt in our pleasure, and Elastica are happy to oblige. The album's one ear-narcotic of a ballad, the shimmering "Nothing Stays the Same," once more steals from Wire (the chorus of "Kidney Bingos" this time). "Best to find/Peace of mind," Frischmann sings, and who better to tell us that than a former friend of the opium pipe.
In the end, women crave steadier versions of themselves. Men crave steadier versions of themselves with breasts. For old (and new?) Elastica fans, the band's cool, collected stance will probably make The Menace both forgivable and forgettable. (A line like "Cocaine is crack/Blondie was black" isn't destined to compete with Cole Porter--or even Lloyd Cole.) You want smarts, try Le Tigre. But no one says nothing with as much verve as Elastica.