Once again it’s time to add to the list of S-Tier songs. For the list as of now and the basic guidelines about it all, head here.
Today’s entry is quick and to the point. It’s about two minutes long, it’s about being unable to “perform” while drunk, and that’s really about it.
Elastica – Stutter
As I said, this one is pretty cut and dry. It’s a simple punk tune, though delivered with smooth women’s vocals as opposed to some shouty drunk guy. The song is expertly constructed in its simplicity and walks a fine line between hard and catchy while getting both sides right. No need to reserves space to evaluate a guitar solo here, this song is out just a quick as it came in.
The lyrical content, while simple in two verses and the chorus, doesn’t quite “come and go.” The song is about a well-known phenomenon where a fella can’t quite get to business after having too much to drink. I suppose “erectile dysfunction” is the proper medical term here. Vocalist Justine Frischmann, also the songwriter, handles the problem in stride, she seems willing to encourage her down and out lover rather than be too upset about it. Though it’s clear she’d also prefer to get to some action.
Stutter was released as a single before Elastica had recorded a full-length. The single was packaged as a limited run of 1,500 records and they flew off store shelves. A series of British media articles shined more attention on the band, and the meteoric rise to fame was on. Two more singles would light up UK charts in 1994, then their debut album released to smash success in early 1995.
The powers that be delayed the release of Stutter in the US until late 1994, a move that likely paid off as the full-length was close to release at that point. Stutter did nominally well on the Billboard charts at position 67, though it did hang out on the charts for 9 weeks. It also broke the top 10 of the alternative rock chart. Subsequent singles would climb higher on both UK and US charts.
The music video was a simple yet effective shot that was in heavy rotation on MTV and other video channels in 1995. Stutter served a number of outlets at the time – “post-grunge” was coming in and Elastica were exactly in the right place at the right time for that. And Britpop was a movement with legs around this time. While Elastica’s sound might not “vibe” with what most consider Britpop, they were undeniably a successful act on the scene at the time. And they were one of the more successful Britpop outfits in the US, second in sales only to the mass success of Oasis. Also, Elastica even outdid Oasis in their shared home country of England – Elastica’s debut album outsold Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, handing Elastica the crown of “highest-selling debut album” in the UK until the Arctic Monkeys came around over a decade later.
There is one other bit of trivia surrounding Stutter that also, uh, sort of involves the Britpop phenomenon. It is widely speculated that the song’s lyrics might be about another of the luminaries of the Britpop movement. Justine Frischmann was an early member of Suede and was in a relationship with that band’s frontman Brett Anderson. Frischmann wound up leaving Anderson for Damon Albarn, frontman of Blur (and later Gorillaz). Frischmann and Albarn were together for a handful of years and were linked at the time Stutter was conceived.
So the question is often asked – is Stutter about either Anderson or Albarn? No answer has been provided and I doubt one ever will. It’s the fodder of endless speculation on ye olde Internet, but it’s also pretty slimy in a way. It’s not like I’d ever ask Justine that question were I in the same room as her. Kind of personal stuff there.
And also – it’s entirely possible the song has nothing to do with either Anderson or Albarn. It might have just been an idea that Frischmann ran with. I thought about not even including this part of the post, but honestly the post was kind of short for my tastes and it’s not like Frischmann is gonna read this and be like “you’re gross.”
Why is this an S-Tier song?
Stutter is a short and to-the-point affair that communicates its message in a clever and coy way despite the aural assault of the music. Justine Frischmann lends some subtle qualities to her vocal delivery that makes the song work in a more playful manner, even though she’d prefer her lover to get to business. The song was a moment in time that fit the time perfectly, as 1995 was a period of transition out of the darker air of the early 90’s. Elastica were in a great place to offer up a ligher-hearted and funny take on an issue not really getting airplay in the grunge years, and the result was very well-received.