God bless the B-52's. The irrepressibly boppy, absurdly coiffed outfit that gave us "Love Shack" and "Rock Lobster" wields tremendous influence on the girl-punk heavyweights of today. Sleater-Kinney merely beefed up its surf-punk party vibe with vitriolic feminist politics; Elastica, on the other hand, ditches the soapbox- stomping in favor of ribald, unadulterated noise. A timely five years after spraying abrupt pop gems like "Connection" all over mainstream radio, the Brit-pack's sophomore effort, The Menace, tosses out jagged, knifing guitar riffs and bratty vocal harmonies by the truckload on tunes such as "Your Arse, My Place" and "How He Wrote Elastica Man." Dorky gestures and wack keyboard action abound, particularly on the warm, relentlessly faithful cover of "Da Da Da," the recently resurrected Volkswagen-ad anthem. But beware: This band has got baggage, man. Five years between albums, rumors of rampant drug abuse, aborted tours, and a messy breakup for frontwoman Justine Frischmann with Blur singer Damon Albarn all spell trouble for the tour. Pray they keep it together long enough to churn out quieter tracks such as "Nothing Stays the Same" and the hyper-intimate "My Sex." Elastica's sheer exuberance and gusto can hit with all the intensity and violence of a B-52 bomber, provided it doesn't self-destruct first.
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