Saturday, 24 February 2018
Oliver!: Arrested Development - Fishin’ 4 Religion (10 April 1992)
There are few things more evocative of “1992” than Arrested Development’s debut album, 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of... Anytime I went in to Our Price throughout that year, and most of the next, I would see the open plain tableau of the album cover staring out at me. It sold by the bucketload, won a number of critical awards and heralded the potential arrival of an act that promised great things for years to come. In the event, they split by 1996 (subsequently to reform after the Millenium), but left behind 3 singles that still hold up well today in People Everyday, Mr. Wendal and their masterpiece, Tennessee. For all that, I was never entirely persuaded by them at the time. They felt to me like a Sesame Street idea of a hip-hop group - all co-operation and why can’t we get along vibes - which is eminently preferably to the “Eat lead, bitch!” antics of the N.W.A copyists that were springing up alongside them, and which Arrested Development were positively compared to. But it didn’t convince me, and the fact that they split ostensibly over business differences showed that they were just as fallible as the bling/guns crowd. I should have been listening a little more closely though given that People Everyday sees vocalist, Speech, kicking another brother’s ass for insulting his African dress and touching up his girlfriend. So, Sesame Street via Oscar the Grouch maybe.
The release of 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of... was one of those instances of Peel getting swept along with the crowd given that the album and Tennessee singles were their first releases, so he discovered them at the same time as everyone else. Fishin’ 4 Religion appeared to be THE track for him as it got several plays over April/May 1992. For me, it’s all about the groove in this one which is infectiously catchy and over which Speech lays down a thoughtful and witty flow about the wish to find some relevance in religion, but how difficult it is given how feeble most church groups are. Baptist churches are happy to obfuscate rather than answer or explore the big questions, while Catholicism preaches blind faith, which isn’t going to satisfy a curious but sceptical member of the congregation. In keeping with the positive feeling which endeared Arrested Development to so many at the time though, there’s no intent to give it up as a bad job, but to keep fishing for something pertinent until a bite of understanding can be found. But as Speech recognises, it’s a big ocean out there. One can only hope he found something worth taking home and not to be thrown back into the sea.
Video courtesy of Green Vein