“They’ve arrived! With the excitement of a new born, came to join the main event and fight against the luke warm” proclaims Slug, marking his return after 2 years out since his group’s last release and even after the first 30 seconds of this opening track, it is clear that they aren’t just in the main event, they are the clear champions.
Ant’s beats on this record show a vast array of diversity as the canvas on which Slug’s lyrical paint floods the headphones with his usual self-depreciation and fantastic story-telling ability. The opening few tracks kick the speakers down as the heavy bass and head-nod inducing drums bump along to Slug’s oratory with samples thrown in, taken from all manner of tracks mentioning the word “atmosphere” in “The Arrival”, the beauty industry in “Panic Attack” and a bumbling humming in “Watch Out”.
Following the brutal boom bap of the opening trio of songs, comes the Scenester-dissing “Musical Chairs” which centres around a high pitched humming and smooth beat which flows around Slug’s descriptions of people that are followed simply because they look good and aren’t viewed beyond their surface traits. Slug then moves into familiar territory when he maligns his “Lucy”, the bane of his existence of broken relationships and personal trauma when he raps on “Say Hey There” over a joint piano and organ led sample and gospel style singing. The piano samples continue with a more laid back number “Hockey Hair” which Slug claims in the linear notes is a song about how he “fucking loves rap”.
Ant then brings in his interpretation of punk into hip hop with “Bam” which features a prominent bass line and a brief sample of “Flesh” from their 3rd album “God Loves Ugly”. This track is short and sharp and shows Slug’s ability to rock the mic hard forcing you to get off your seat and put a fist in the air to rock the bass with the duo from Minnesota.
As hard a beat as “Bam” knocks out, it is the following number, “Pour Me Another” which shows Atmosphere at their most prominent. Another piano sample brings in a softer beat as Slug soulfully describes how problems can often be thrown back with a few shots until you’re left numb and blissfully forgetful of how your life has taken a turn for the worse. With a feel good vibe and twanging guitar pushing things along on “Smart Went Crazy”, Slug flows about loving his home town, being on the road too long before switching it up with a much more late night tempo on “Angelface” which describes waking up in any random place and meeting the people that you come across, thus giving us the pros and cons of travelling and touring with his music.
“Get Fly” is another booty shaker which wouldn’t be out of place at a funky disco with a beat reminiscent of the Jackson 5 though it is the two songs that sandwich it which bring out the most poignant and heartfelt sides of Mr Daley. “That Night” details what happened at a show in Albuquerque in 2003, when a girl was raped and killed at one of their shows by a man with a history of sexual assaults, and whilst the bluesy intro makes you think you’re in for another good time, Slug’s sombre and almost spoken delivery lets you into the dark world that powers his work. He finishes the track by telling the guilty man that “If you ever find God, better pray to her and ask that we never cross paths”.
The album finishes off with “Little Man”, a song split into three letters, one to Slug’s 11 year old son Jacob, one to his father and one to himself. He tells his son that he wishes he was able to be around more but that he is proud that his little man has grown up to be strong and even teach Slug how to deal with his estranged partner. He tells his dad that he loves him because he learnt from his mistakes whilst regretting not patching up the cracks sooner, and he finishes the album by telling himself that he’s too old, that he’s losing his touch and that he wishes himself luck. However, on the evidence of the 13 tracks just heard, he’s neither lost his touch, nor needs luck. I can believe how much fun he’s having, because I’ve just spent the best 51 minutes of my life having fun myself.
People call Atmosphere “Emo-Hop”, people call Atmosphere sell outs, people compare Atmosphere to miserable guitar bands just to be able to place them into a sphere the reviewer understands himself. You can call Atmosphere whatever you want, you can compare them to whoever you want, but do yourself a favour, buy this album. Once you’ve heard this, you’ll never give a damn about whether Emo-Hop exists or not, because you’ll be too busy having a good time. And just in case you forgot, I’ll let the emcee remind you: “Who they blame when the game’s in a tight spot? Slug, you can find me in the A’s on your ipod”.