Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Best Thing Ever

Arrested Development
Originally uploaded by bsglaser.
Artist: Arrested Development
Album: 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of…
Source: Bought new (twice)

Cable TV has so many channels that, inevitably, the folks who have to fill the time often run out of filler. Since it’s expensive to make new TV shows, and seeing as there are so many TV shows that have already been made, it makes a kind of cruel sense to fill today’s TV time with yesterday’s shows. So pretty much everything I loved watching as a kid – from the A-Team and Battlestar Galactica to Happy Days and Mork & Mindy – is out there in TV land (and often on TV Land) somewhere.

That’s fantastically good news, until you actually sit down and watch the shows that used to be The Best Thing Ever in your 8-year-old mind. The A-Team kind of sucks (though please don’t tell Mr. T. I said so…), and the 80s-era Battlestar Galactica just uses the same short clips of special effects over and over (though the new one is so excellent it makes my mind melt a little). Even in the case of Happy Days, I can see what I liked about it without quite enjoying it as much now.

When Arrested Development’s first album came out in 1992, it was positively The Best Thing Ever. In a moment when hip-hop was boundlessly creative (De La Soul, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and lots of others were at their undisputed peak then), this album sounded a piece with the times and also totally different from anything else out there. These guys put blues into hip-hip, a sunny kind of Sly and the Family Stone vibe without sounding backdated, and just great songs. The single, “Tennessee,” was a hit that deserved every moment of chart time.

I listened to this disc all the time. 3 Years… was in my CD player often and always sounded fresh. I liked it so much that when it got stolen out of my luggage on the way to Scotland my junior year of college (someone broke into my bags and picked out all the R&B and hip-hop discs, leaving the rock and pop behind…) I felt I needed to plunk down some more cash to buy it again, at VAT-fueled European prices, so as not to be without it. And we were together again, Arrested Development and I.

The Best Thing Ever sounds, almost 15 years later, only like A Very Good Thing. And it’s not just because I don’t listen to as much hip-hop anymore: when I put on, say, Check Your Head or Midnight Marauders, they still hit me and hit me hard. 3 Years… still sounds nice, but not as head-spinning as it once was. It’s like I can now see the lines the Fonz has to say were kind of cheesy, and while Happy Days is still a quality sit-com, it just doesn’t pack the same punch. “Tennessee” is fun to sing along to, but it’s a summer pop hit from another summer.

SISOSIG? This is kind of a split decision, but I think I’ll hold onto this one. It’s not a bad record – it’s actually very good, better than a lot of stuff I own. I think I’m holding it up against the harsh light of how great it sounded at the moment, when it was The Best Thing Ever, which is slightly obscuring how good it sounds now. And besides – I paid for it twice, so I’m still getting my money’s worth out of it.


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