dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Throwback: The Best Thing In The World?

2009 has been one bitch of a year, no? In talking with different people over the past few months, it seems that frustration, misfortune and overall wariness has set in for many.

And so, it was with some irony—but, overall, excitement—that I stumbled upon the below "live" clip last night of onetime British fivepiece pop group Optimystic doing their third (flop) single "Best Thing In The World" on the program Fully Booked in 1995. (I say "irony" because I'd just just come from visiting a friend in the hospital who's been in a bad motorcycle accident, and, well, the song is called "Best Thing In The World.")

By my third year of college, I was heavily caught up in trading CDs with pals I'd made online. In 1996, a guy in Philadelphia sent me a copy of Optimystic's lone album, Heartbeat. They were like a much cheesier (if you can imagine) Steps, and really only eked out one minor U.K. Top 40 hit, with "Nothing But Love".

That's their album to the right there. Lovely rainbow logo, gang. Naughty Hi-NRG/dance-pop producer Ian Levine had his fingers in the Optimystic pie, but "Best Thing In The World" was produced by Nigel Lowis, who'd worked with Take That (remixing their single "Everything Changes"), Dina Carroll and Eternal (producing my fave jam by them, "Stay").

Anyway, I used to ride my bicycle around Indiana, Pennsylvania—the town I went to college in—circa 1996/'97 and play this song over and over on my walkman on Sunday afternoons. Something about it still sounds kind of timeless to me today. No matter what mix tape I'd made each month (or, sometimes, week) back then, it was always on there. Much simpler, un-complicated times, in hindsight.

Eventually, I traded Heartbeat off to someone else, deeming "Best Thing In The World" the only decent track on there. But—oh, ho HO!—smarty-smart me made sure to save that song on TAPE! Sigh.

OK, who am I kidding? I got rid of the damn thing because of the cover art. I mean, it was one thing to have Aqua's Aquarium being the grand peak of cheesiness in your music collection in 1997, but there were only so many R.E.M. CDs you could hastily throw on top of Optimystic each time your friends came over, to avoid embarrassment!

At any rate, Optimystic's Heartbeat is available on iTunes. It's not exactly the, uh, best thing in the—well, you get the picture. But that one song alone is at least deserving of making its way onto your next "Lost '90s Rewind" playlist.

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