Top 6 90s Soundtrack Albums Featuring Elastica

I spent a lot of time preparing for our top songs of the ’90s list by just trying to remember all the songs I heard in the ’90s. Unlike when I put together a list of my favorite songs of the ’00s, I couldn’t just consult my iTunes/last.fm history. With CDs often priced in $15-20 range, teenagers like me in the pre-mp3 ’90s absorbed music through a disparate collection of sources: the radio, MTV, going to shows, browsing record stores, and many, many tapes (be they mixed, dubbed, or recorded from the radio).

One of the most popular delivery methods of popular music in that bygone era was the movie soundtrack album. While some movies still market soundtracks like they did back then (YA movie adaptations spring to mind), they definitely aren’t the original popular music delivery system they were back in the day. The episode of Parks & Rec where Millennial April is disdainful of Gen-Xer (and avowed Letters to Cleo fan) Ben’s collection of soundtracks on CD wounded me to my core.

parks-and-rec-soundtracks

I wanted to write something authoritative about how special soundtracks could be in the ’90s, but this list is the most I’ve ever agreed with a list on the internet that I didn’t contribute to. I didn’t want to be redundant, so I decided to narrow my focus a little, to just soundtracks featuring the band Elastica.

Why Elastica? To me this group of (mostly) women who kicked out late-70s/early-80s-style post-punk blasts of sound a decade before it was trendy again were the coolest band on earth in the ’90s. They also happened to show up on soundtrack albums as much as anyone else in the ’90s, and I wanted to celebrate them because none of their songs made our list of the top 90 songs of the 1990s.

This list only includes soundtracks where Elastica is included on the album. It was always annoying when a song appeared in a movie but not on the soundtrack and vice versa, but that’s a rant for another time.  The albums are ranked on three criteria, weighted on a case-by-case basis according to my whimsy:

  1. How good the movie is
  2. How good the Elastica song is
  3. How good the rest of the soundtrack is

Nowhere

6. Nowhere (1997)

What is this movie?
Wikipedia says it’s the final chapter of director Gregg Araki’s “Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy.” The box cover says it’s “90210 on acid.” I literally just discovered it existed when putting together this list so that’s all I got.

How is it?
I haven’t seen it, but if Akari’s other Teenage Apocalypse films are as unfunny, bleak, and heavyhanded as The Doom Generation (which I have seen), I’m in no rush. The trailer seems to confirm my suspicions.

What is the Elastica song?
“In The City” which as far as I can tell first appeared on this soundtrack. Unfortunately, the pile of scholarly research about Elastica I was hoping to reference for this piece doesn’t actually exist so I can’t be sure.

How is it?
It’s pretty good! Clocking at a tight 90 seconds, this ditty about ambivialance over a potential relationship would be right at home on Elastica’s classic self-titled debut. Points off because I was kind of hoping it was a cover of The Jam song with the same name. As much as I like Elastica, the Jam song is better.

How is the rest of the soundtrack?
Like a lot of compilations, it’s a mixed bag. Hole’s atonal, anti-rape culture screed “Dicknail” reminds me of when Morrissey plays “Meat is Murder” live in the sense that it’s both preaching to and turning off the choir at the same time. There’s also a 311 song that sounds like a parody of a 311 song and a Daft Punk remix of a Chemical Brothers song that’s so boring I don’t believe either group was actually involved. Bright spots include some dreamy-sounding tracks by Catherine Wheel and Lush as well as a Chuck D solo joint that’s a few years ahead of its time.

subUrbia

5. Suburbia (1997)

What is this movie?
Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Eric Bogosian’s play of the same name. It follows a group of (you guessed it) slackers over (you guessed it) the course of a single night. For the movie, Linklater transplanted the action to a suburb of (you guessed it) Austin, Texas.

How is it?
I don’t know! I feel kind of bad about my glib description above, but it’s interesting to remember there was a time when Linklater was a promising young filmmaker and not the acclaimed auteur he is today. It’s also weird how the director who made Boyhood made so many movies before that take place over the course of 24 hours or fewer. I’m trying to say I haven’t seen this or very many of Linklater’s films in general and I’m trying obfuscate that fact by making fun of him. This one isn’t entirely on me as the film is not widely available. It’s never been released on DVD or Blu-Ray. However, I am more familiar with Bogosian’s work on Law & Order than I am with his plays, so there’s a strong case to made that I’m the problem.

What is the Elastica song?
“The Unheard Music,” a cover of an X song featuring Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus

How is it?
So freaking good! Despite the fact that Malkmus and Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann retain the original’s boy/girl vocal interplay and melody, it sounds like an entirely different (and much more interesting) song. One awkward trivia tidbit about Elastica is that they were accused of plagiarism more than once by bands that obviously influenced them, like The Wire. However, I always thought what they did was different enough to constitute original work. It’s interesting here to hear them strip away X’s rockabilly roots and replace it with Wire-style robotic noise. Also, it reminds of my favorite songs on The Menace, Elastica’s underrated second (and final) album.

How is the rest of the soundtrack?
It might be good. Like the movie itself, it’s surprisingly hard to find. It doesn’t seem to be digitally available anywhere. Like, you can’t buy it on iTunes or the Amazon MP3 store, let alone stream it. Sonic Youth scored the film so there are a bunch of their songs in addition to Beck, Superchunk, and other things you would expect to find on there. A definite strike against the album is the cover, which is the only one on the list to not have the names of the bands. That was always an important piece of information when making soundtrack purchase decisions.

mallrats

4. Mallrats (1995)

What is this movie?
Kevin Smith’s followup to his classic no-budget debut Clerks (which almost received an NC-17 rating for its bawdy dialogue) follows some aimless twentysomethings as they try to win their girlfriends back during a hi-jinks filled day at the mall.
How is it?
I don’t know, but not because I haven’t seen it. I loved this movie as a teenager so much it felt like it was made for me. But much like my own attitudes and brand of humor from that era, I worry that Smith’s movies are a little on the juvenile side and haven’t aged well. I’m afraid to rewatch them and have them tarnish my memories.
What is the Elastica song?
“Line Up,” the first track from their self titled debut

How is it?
It’s great, but there’s not much to say about a song you already know.

How is the soundtrack in general?
Not bad! Like the movie itself, I had a lot of trouble properly rating this one. It is strangely, almost equally, divided between previously released songs (like “Line Up”) and  brand new tracks. New songs included an OK Bush song, a pretty good Belly ballad, and “Suzanne” by Weezer. “Suzanne” is not the best Weezer song of the ’90s (according to our list), but with its Beach Boys harmonies, crunchy guitars, and soaring solos, it may be the platonic ideal of a Weezer song.

The Mallrats soundtrack also had the very ’90s feature of breaking up the songs with tracks of dialogue from the movie. I consider this a plus.

deadmanoncampus

3. Dead Man On Campus (1998)

What is this movie?
MTV Films’ attempt at a National Lampoon/American Pie style comedy with their first R-Rated feature. Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Tom Everett Scott play college freshman who try to find a third roommate to commit suicide so they don’t fail all their classes.

How is it?
It’s bad! In the next entry I will refer to The Craft as good for what it is. Dead Man On Campus is not even good for what little it is. I think I laughed at one joke. While I was surprised to find Gosselaar had actual comic timing, there are so many bad performances from actors I generally like that I assume the director is to blame. Reread my plot synopsis. It’s actually dumber than that if you watch the whole thing. This movie’s release was timed with the start of the college school year, specifically right when I went to college for the first time. This was aimed right at me and missed completely. This is all compounded by the fact that as an MTV film, it was the recipient of of a large cross-promotional effort that was inescapable if you watched MTV at all.

What is the Elastica song?
“Human,” which would later show up on The Menace

How is it?
I feel like I’m not qualified to say. This came out during the five-year gap between Elastica’s only studio albums, so I was hungry for any Elastica at that point. It was dark, mid-tempo, over three minutes long, and introduced some new textures to their sound, so it showed some growth for the band.

How is the rest of the soundtrack?
About as good as a compilation with a Creed song can be. It was exec-produced by The Dust Brothers and put out by DreamWorks. This lead to some interesting choices like including songs by Self and Creeper Lagoon (two bands I loved at the time, but never got their due). I actually like Marilyn Manson’s cover of David Bowie’s “Golden Years.” This came out right around Mechanical Animals, which also sported a noticeable 70s Bowie influence. What I’m trying to say is that there were a few months in 1998 where I kind of liked Marilyn Manson. The highlight of the soundtrack for me is Blur’s “Cowboy Song,” where Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon give into to some of their worst musical instincts (falsetto, slide guitar) but come up with a genuinely fun song. Bonus points to whomever at DreamWorks thought it would be cute to put former couple Frischmann and Albarn’s bands back to back on the tracklist.

thecraft

2. The Craft (1996)

What is this movie?
A supernatural thriller about teen girl outcasts who become witches to deal with problems of adolescence but end up turning on each other.

How is it?
Good for what it is: a campy romp. Fairuza Balk gets a career-defining role. It plays as much as a superhero movie as it does a horror film. If that sounds like your type of thing, you would probably enjoy it. I do fear, however, that people who loved it growing up now overestimate how good it is in adulthood (much like another movie of the era starring Robin Tunney and having a memorable soundtrack, Empire Records).

What is the Elastica song?
“Spastica,” a B-side from the “Connection” single

How is it?
It’s a B-side for a reason. A pretty cool chorus without many lyrics, a pretty cool bass line, and some digs at a guy. Kind of a by-the-numbers Elastica song, but not fully baked. It would have been a weak point if it was included on one of their albums. Also, maybe just don’t use the word ‘spastic’ in this day and age unless you’re referring to very specific medical conditions.

How is the rest of the soundtrack?
Underrated! I don’t know why I don’t hate Love Spit Love’s cover of “How Soon Is Now” like most Smiths fans, but I enjoy it! I even enjoy Our Lady Peace’s cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” I even enjoy Our Lady Peace’s cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” That is not a typo; that sentence is there twice for emphasis. Letters to Cleo and Heather Nova also do surprisingly not-bad covers. It’s rounded out by a very ’90s list of artists including Jewel, Matthew Sweet, and Tripping Daisy.

trainspotting

1. Trainspotting (1996)

What is this movie?
Danny Boyle’s pitch black comedic adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s classic novel about a group of ‘friends’ in Edinburgh who use any vice (but mostly heroin) to fill the void.
How is it?
A testament to how good this film is: I sometimes faint when having blood drawn, but I will watch this movie full of graphic depictions of people shooting up heroin at least once a year. Funny, well-acted, inventive, and real, it’s amazing how rewatchable a film with such dark subject matter is.

What is the Elastica song?
“2:1,” from their self-titled debut.

How is it?
It’s good, but notable for being maybe the only downtempo Elastica song from their early period. Also, it’s a bit of a bummer that this is a reused album track as opposed to something new. That being said, it perfectly scores a montage in the back half of the film.

How is the soundtrack in general?
Would it be hyperbole to say it is the most culturally significant movie soundtrack since Saturday Night Fever? Yes, but I’m saying it anyways. It was instrumental to popularizing britpop outside of Britain. The inclusion of “Lust For Life” introduced Iggy Pop the musician to a generation that just knew him as Nona Mecklenberg’s father on The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Unlike a lot of soundtracks of the time, the songs were really used as score and it was done to perfection.

Rob

Rob is one of the founders of SportsAlcohol.com. He is a recent first time home buyer and it's all he talks about. Said home is in his hometown in Upstate New York. He never moved away and works a job to pay for his mortgage and crippling chicken wing addiction. He is not what you would call a go-getter. This may explain the general tone of SportsAlcohol.com.
Rob