In a transport cafe on the Portobello Road, around the corner from her house in West London, Elastica’s Justine Frischmann strides right past the queue of leering market boys, brickies, and fat blokes from the building trade, puts her cup of tea down on a table, and introduces herself with a cute, provocative, curtsy

As gestures go, this is very her, perfect Elastica: brash, ironic, sexy: decidedly feminine but with an almost macho attitude. Elastica are not exactly lacking in confidence. 

This is hardly surprising. After only three independent singles, their debut album ‘Elastica’ is the most talked about Sure Thing to hit the English indie scene since ‘The Smiths’ and with DGC Records/Geffen launching them in the States, the cry can now ring out there too: Punk Is Not Dead. 

Mercifully the punk (the music and the style) that Elastica are besotted with harks back to the halcyon New Wave days of ‘My Sharona’, early Blondie, and the Pretenders, along with raucous post-punk pop by Buzzcocks, Wire, and The Stranglers. (Just without the strippers on stage, although with Frischmann, you never know.)

Formed in late 1992, Elastica comprise three sassy chicks – Frischmann on guitar and vocals; Annie Holland on bass; guitarist Donna Matthews – and token male Justin Welch on drums.

They arrive in the States this month in the strange position of trying to play down the hype – ignoring the precedents of recent English exports like Suede and Blur and actually treating their debut release on Geffen as respite from the high profile pressure that, for Frischmann in particular, has become the norm back in the UK.

As a founder member of Suede and former partner of Suede’s fey frontman Brett Anderson (whom she met studying architecture), Frischmann’s band has been in the media spotlight from Day One, particularly as she is now stepping out with England’s hottest, prettiest, property Damon Albarn, the lead singer of Blur.

“I felt my role in life was going to be the Lady Macbeth character,” Justine admits.

This feeling changed when Elastica’s first gig (in a pub outside London) became an Event. Elastica’s record deal and first magazine cover were thus based on a set with only seven numbers.

Fearful of the over-exposure and high expectations that have dogged Blur and Suede, Frischmann took Elastica underground, cancelled all Elastica’s interviews and tour dates, and have released only two singles all year (‘Line Up’ and ‘Connection’). Inevitably, this only heightened the hype and hysteria.

Both tracks appear on their 17-track debut album, which if nothing else shows why Frischmann is so confident Elastica will not suffer the same fate in America as her two beaus.  

“We’ve got three girls in the group, but I think we’re a lot less effeminate than either Blur or Suede. Damon or Brett will never grow a beard.”

Frischmann spent most of last year looking helplessly on as Suede and Blur became two of the biggest bands in England and Anderson and Albarn celebrated their success by publicly slagging each other at every opportunity.  

“Oh, Damon’s been absolutely pathetic !” Frischmann admits, blithely. “Now I think they enjoy doing it.”

Justine herself makes for a reluctant Femme Fatale. She is still amazed at the depth of feeling the rivalry has aroused and reeling with horror after one fan sent her a drawing of Brett (who she is still friends with) in a wheelchair and offering to arrange it for her. 

As a record, ‘Elastica’ suggests it won’t be long before Anderson and Albarn find their own bands are treated as the satelites of Elastica rather than vice versa.

With the immediacy and edge of The Pixies or Breeders, laced with old-fashioned English punk sensibilities, and a touch of glam androgyny, above all the album serves as testimony to the pivotal moment of Justine’s upbringing: the day she inherited her elder brother’s collection of vinyl.  ‘Waking Up’ is a perfect cross between ‘No More Heroes’ and ‘Echo Beach.’ ‘Vaseline’ is the best song Pete Shelley never wrote, and ‘2:1’ a dead ringer for Wire’s ‘Being Sucked in Again’. Justine’s sneering mock-Cockney putdowns of friends and contemporaries set the tone throughout, most notably on the brilliantly scathing dismissal of groupies and hangers-on in the music industry ‘Line-Up’.                     

But the lot of the modern-day punk revivalist is not always a happy one. Justine’s dread of CDs is almost pathological. She still finds herself talking about putting on “the A-side” of ‘Scary Monsters’ and “never making it to the B-side.” While she admits the thought of people playing the album using the ‘Shuffle’ button keeps her awake at night.

“We’ve spent so much time perfecting the running order of this LP,” she reflects without smiling, staring out at the people walking down Portobello. “If I found someone doing that, I’d go round and smash them over the head with a hatchet.”

That’s one thing we can safely say about Justine Frischmann. She means it maaaaan…