Review Summary: A balance found.
It hurts like hell getting old. It’s scary, too, but mostly it just hurts. Your whole life you define yourself by your lifestyle, your friends, your music. You stew on your mistakes and regrets but it’s too late to do anything about it, so you move on. But those mistakes define you. You’re the dude who studied for his calculus final instead of going all out on the slip-n-slide with those girls next door. Especially that one who could never remember your name. So that definition consumes your very essence and you come to grips with it because there’s nothing else to be done. Keep on keepin’ on because like it or not, you’re you. But there’s no denying that knowing you can’t truly change your core is painful. Life is then a delicate balance, from that moment when you’re ‘grown’ until the day you call it quits, of staying true to and improving yourself.
Atmosphere worked hard throughout their development to create a centric ideal upon which they could better understand themselves, and on 2002’s God Loves Ugly
, we saw the complete definition of their sound; slightly misguided and soul searching honesty laid bare over firmly grounded rhythms. From that point on for Atmosphere, it was a struggle of not being wholly satisfied with that classification. I’m sure it’s easy as an artist to get frustrated with the expectations of a fan base, especially one expecting a ‘part 2’ that expounds on the idea that latched them in the first place. But it’s not fair to be labeled so black and white. So much like each of us struggle with self-identification, Atmosphere had a hard time finding the sweet spot to settle into as they matured. Yet finally on their 7th album Southsiders
, Atmosphere has found their balance.
Slug keeps it blunt and straightforward as ever, calculating his often simple rhymes for emotional impact. On ‘My Lady Has Two Men’, he pleads for unrequited love in typical Slug fashion with, ”It's obvious that I'm better than him, if you got me sense you won't settle for him.” Slug is still Slug, as cheesy as he his endearing. But unlike much of The Family Sign
and even parts of When Life Gives You Lemons…
, he sounds convinced of his personal truth again. It’s the self-aware Slug that made his early work so attractive and it’s good to hear it return. The fire may not be as present as it was in his younger years, but knowledge and experience keep his heart in the flow.
Ant, on the other hand, hits heights he hasn’t hit in years. His piano licks hauntingly resonate below the pulsating synths. It’s minimalistic by todays’ bombastic standards, but it lifts an otherwise low key Slug performance to three dimensional places that could have come across as flat on their own. On opener “Camera Thief” sees the beat wobbling with jazzy elasticity, belying the slightly depressed reflection of the lyrics by introducing a self-assured swagger.
proves that Atmosphere is very much a team that’s evolved over time. They course correct here, remembering the past and learning from it. It’s the group gaining a better understanding of who they are and where they want to be. While we might not ever see the passion of the slightly emotionally off-kilter Slug again, we can certainly appreciate the wisdom and frustrations that he’s still willing to share. The ups and downs of the past have finally flat lined here. Sure, there were definitely growing pains, but it’s encouraging to see a group come out clean on the other side. Maybe that means we all can too.