November 3, 2005

Atmosphere: You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having

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On Atmosphere’s last album Seven’s Travels, MC Slug comically proclaimed “Atmosphere finally made a good record. Yeah right, that shit almost sounds convincing.” Too bad Slug couldn’t save that line for Atmosphere’s newest album, You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having. It’s not that the new album is a disappointment. It’s just that I expected much better from a group that has been at the forefront of the underground rap scene for nearly a decade.

These champions of Midwest suburbia created a very smart, and occasionally hilariously witty style that seemed to peak with Seven’s Travels. Slug’s confessional, down-to-Earth raps made Seven’s Travels lyrically multi-dimensional, while producer Ant created beats that weren’t simple but weren’t overproduced either. Take “Los Angeles,” one of the best tracks on the album, in which Ant loops a crispy, old school beat while Slug rants about how weird, glamorous, vain and awesome L.A. is, all in barely two minutes. Even on “Trying to Find a Balance,” the catchiest and most complex song on the album, Slug manages to diffuse and mock his categorization as an “emo rapper” by cleverly combining political jabs with outright crass and fratastic lyrics (“Now I’m too fucked up to dance, so I’m gonna sit with my hand down the front of my pants.”).

Not to mention its awful title, You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having isn’t nearly as lyrically eclectic and funny as Seven’s Travels. On the new album, Atmosphere seems to embrace its categorization as the spoken word version of Death Cab for Cutie, creating an album that is cliche and sometimes too unoriginal to listen to.

The first track off the new album, “The Arrival,” revolves around a repetitive and generic beat that gets old after the first minute. Nevertheless, the annoying beat doesn’t stop Slug from desperately trying to keep his listener’s attention. He lazily injects the words “They arrived” in between verses, but the effect is so irritating that the entire track is almost painful to listen to. On “Angelface,” Slug can’t wait to prove to the world that he can rhyme multi-syllable words, but in reality, it just seems like he’s trying too hard.

This is not to say all the tracks on the album are terrible. There are definitely a couple of awesome ones such as “Little Man,” where Ant adds swagger to an already amazing Juelz Santana beat and Slug pours his heart out in a very unique manner (each verse is a different letter addressed to a different person). The beat sampled on “Say Hey There,” which features a jazzy piano riff, bluesy bass line and background soul vocals, is some of Ant’s finest work on the album, and Slug adds some diversity to his sound by changing the tempo. Not Atmosphere’s finest work but worth checking out nonetheless.

Archived article by Jonny Lieberman
Sun Staff Writer