Review Summary: The Family Sign is essentially the audible recording of the element of Family, in all of its beauty and rage, and one could not ask for anything more.
Three years removed from their breakout hit When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That *** Gold
, Atmosphere have released their first true disappointment, The Family Sign
. A pseudo-concept record with most of the narratives revolving around familial issues and relationships, The Family Sign
can at times be poignant and dare I say it (and despite the best efforts of Slug’s voice) beautiful. Then again, at times you’ll be wondering why on earth Sluggo would drop that rhyme, or how the album ends up running circles around itself.
Musically, Atmosphere are still progressing smoothly towards the realm of pop. Ant has driven the band in a logical direction, with more live instruments being used again, leading to a clean open environment for the songs to develop. It's all nicely constructed and you’re never left feeling like a song wasn’t fully fleshed out. However, too much consistency in the sound of the songs leaves the album feeling like a blur, and besides the first three songs, the rest of the album meshes together sonically in a way that its difficult to decipher one song from one another.
Slug fares similarly: he is at the top of his game when it comes to his flow, sounding as smooth and pronounced as ever. The flip side of the coin is that all the cornball lyrics we’re used to are blown out of proportion; with a subject as touchy as family and love, its difficult to strike a good balance between the emotional and the plain ridiculous, and Slug straddles the latter far too often. “The Last to Say”, deals with the heady subject of domestic abuse, and his performance here is out of the park. It’s restrained but still brutally honest, and the vivid language of the verses is contrasted by the succinct and simple chorus of “let me be the last to say/it will be okay”. Then again, there are tracks like “Bad Bad Daddy” where Slug overdoes child neglecting with lines like “I gave em all some money and put grub in their tummies/now Im gonna go get bombed and don’t tell your mom” and “I’m a bad bad daddy.”
I see, Atmosphere. I see.
The songs all fall in between the realms of being impacting or downright stupid. Unfortunately, the latter is true way more often than the former, and The Family Sign’s
downfall is that its concept just doesn’t lend itself to fifty minutes of explanation and execution. It’s still a decent addition to Atmosphere’s discography, but if you’re expecting something on the level of GodLovesUgly
or When Life Gives You Lemons…
, you may want to look elsewhere first.