I love it when I get to see bands who I never thought I’d ever see: over the last few years I’ve seen Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine and the Stone Roses, and in 2004 I managed to see Arrested Development at the Wardrobe in Leeds. This might not seem like a big deal, they’re probably not a group that people would think of as “must see”, but for me they were.
Arrested Development were probably one of the first groups whose album I made an effort to buy, rather than just tape the singles off the Top 40. I was 10 years old, and had a meagre record collection at that point: Guns and Roses’ Use Your Illusion I & II; Nirvana’s Nevermind; and some generic compilation tapes that relatives had bought me for Christmas with titles like Dance ’91 and the Best Dance Album in the World Ever... Part 2.
When I saw Arrested Development live in 2004, I admittedly made a bit of a tit of myself and managed to get incredibly drunk. I enjoy a good drink, but I’ve never enjoyed being drunk, and have never set out to “get hammered”. I’m not sure how it happened, or even recall what I’d been drinking, but by the time the band came on stage I was feeling pretty messed up. At one point during the show I was sitting on a stool and leaning with my head down on a rail. I managed to throw up on the shoes of a minor celebrity, Ben Freeman, who was apparently in Emmerdale. My girlfriend (now my wife) took me home in a drunken stupor, as I apologise profusely and told her how much I loved her in the way that only a drunkard can.
3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of... is an album that has engrained itself in my memory. Every part of every song is familiar: from the vinyl crackle of the opening track ‘Man’s Final Frontier’, to the backwards-masked double bass and syncopated rhythms of album-closer ‘Washed Away’. In my mind I always used to associate Arrested Development with De La Soul: I think this was because they were both hip-hop acts that went against the grain of gangsta rap and promoted a message of peace and love (though De La Soul’s message was a little more abstract): ‘People Everyday’, which is a little slower than the familiar single version, urges us to embrace difference, and not be a twat; ‘Fishing 4 Religion’ talks about finding faith beyond the structures of an oppressive church; ‘Mr Wendal’ is just an amazing piece of music that urges us not to judge people based on their appearance, and that even the most downtrodden have a story to tell; and ‘Give a Man a Fish’ utilises P-funk rhythms to push the importance of education. As a 10 year old, I didn’t realise how political and moralising Arrested Development are, but I just loved the music.
I think that if a group came out today who were so overtly political, they would probably annoy me, but Arrested Development caught me at the right time. Listening back to album I found myself nodding along, and again just enjoying the music. It’s a shame that the single version of Everyday People is lacking from the album, but that is only a small gripe.
I’m glad to say that this album is definitely a keeper. Yeah, some charity might suffer, but damn it, this album’s great.