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Atmosphere – Fishing Blues

August 25, 2016

I am not a hip hop guy. I am not like my peers – I don’t hate it. I get it, but shit has to touch your soul.  Throughout the years I have had my moments: “The Message,” “Rock It,” Run DMC, De La Soul, PE, etc.and then there was Atmosphere.

I stumbled on to Atmosphere’ 2005 You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having – I did not stumble into it – I slammed in to it. If you lived in Minneapolis in 2005 it was hard not to be aware of Atmosphere. I bought this CD at the Edina Target the week it came out – that is how mainstream Atmosphere was in the Twin Towns. I spun it before Pwelbs. I think he was impressed I bought it. It lived up to the hype.

Fast forward and I have been following them ever since. It is a band (yes I call them a band) that I dig. They touch my soul. Maybe it is a Minneapolis thing, but this is the only hip hop that has entered my top shelf. The first hip hop that I ever truly got and it opened my eyes to fully appreciate the genre. I can’t explain. I like the story telling and I like the 70s funky soul grooves.

My wife Laura follows the events calendar better than I do. She gave me the heads up there would be an Atmosphere release day meet and greet at Fifth Element. We went to Atmosphere’s last album meet and greet and it was truly awesome. So it was after work on a stressful day after a hard week, Laura not feeling 100% and its pouring rain – a lot of reasons to stay at home and drink a beer – we met eyes and said let’s do this. Am I glad we did. Slug and Ant have this meet and greet concept down to an art form – they genuinely know how to meet and greet – no one feels rushed – yet they keep the line moving.

So enough, how is the album.  Pretty damn good.  First thanks boys for not trying to squeeze this on to two LPs – my ears appreciate you let an LP air it out on the lathe.

“Like a Fire” kicks it off with a song with the foundational lyric/beat: “bum bum, bubdy dub -dub dum -dum.” Slug rants, but reminds us that despite all the power of fire, it does burn out.

“Ringo” is one of several Atmosphere songs that are named after famous musicians that have nothing to do with the famous musician (like Bob Seger and Lyle Lovette).  “Ringo” is about being a drunk  and/or hung over celebrity.

“Besos” is kisses in Spanish, but this song is more of a kiss off.

“Pure Evil” (featuring I.B.E.) Slug gets political, not by chanting black lives matter, but telling the story of police brutality from the perspective of the perpetrating cop.

“Perfect” lightens things up both musically and lyrically.  The song shouts out to Minneapolis and a subtle wink to the late great Prince.

“Seismic Waves” is a pretty cool song – almost a Radiohead feel.  It has some of the best rhymes on the album including my favorite:

Things ain’t been the same since Treyvon, shit
Things ain’t been the same since Reagan; wait
Ain’t a single thing change from the days
When the gods went crazy
And broke the languages

“Next To You” (featuring deM atlaS) is about being worthless drunk – time truly wasted.  deM atlaS cameo is brilliant – his soulful growl is perfect punctuation for the song.

“The Shit That We’ve Been Through” could be the morning after to “Next To You.”  A song about heading out on the road with some things unresolved.

“When the Lights Go Out” (featuring. DOOM & Kool Keith) musically has a deconstructed Aerosmith “Sweet Emotion” feel to it.  It has a pretty cool chorus with a leap frogging Slug, Kool Keith and MF DOOM.  All three rappers take a verse.

“No Biggie” is a pretty good anthem – you can see this song rocking it live.  A shout out to the Notorious B.I.G. Check out the song title and the lyric: “There’s not life after death, I’m not ready to die” a shout out to famous Biggie album titles.

“Everything” is chapter two to “No Biggie.”  Lyrically this is a song about being an adult and a dad.

“Chasing New York” (featuring  Aesop Rock) has a great jazz beat and is Slug’s love letter to the great city.

“Sugar” is a classic soulful Ant groove.  This is my favorite song on the album.  In a better world this would be a huge hit. Slug goes all Marvin – dewy pants music.

“Fishing Blues” (featuring The Grouch) is the titular track (I love saying that). This is mid-life wisdom.

“Won’t Look Back” (featuring Kim Manning) – who the hell is Kim Manning?  She sounds like a hip hop Stevie Nicks. This is another song that should be a massive hit. With little nuggets like “Make giant steps, gotta catch the cold train” – the boys leave an Easter Egg for old jazz heads like me. This song has an amazing funky little guitar riff too.  What an ending – harpsichord, the riff and Kim.

“Anybody That I’ve Known”is Atmosphere’s Pavement song – what a great treat when they go out of character.

“Still Be Here” is a love song and it is pretty.

“A Long Hello” gives the good advice that “We always over emphasize the goodbyes.”   Instead we should focus on beginnings:  “a long hello.”

Over all this is a great album – hip hop for adults. As always there are great Ant grooves and clever Slug lyrics.  I love it when a band has a genuine career and constantly delivers quality year after year – true craftsmen.


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