Mellow, mature, melodious but not so melancholic. In short, that’s what happens in When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2008). Instead of fighting back against life’s uncontrollable events, one shouldn’t merely roll with the punches but continue to get back up, learn from mistakes, and squeeze every drop from that life lemon. These lessons are learned on Dreamer, about a woman who ends up with a deadbeat and a kid at only 18 years old. The ‘lazy bum with no cash’ ends up returning, repeating the similar tricks before she awakens one night and ends it. “But she still dreams after she woke, tight hold on that hope. Sometimes it can seem so cold, do what you gotta do to cope.”
Stores of a similar vein continue throughout, tales of tortured daily dreamers either awakening or walking the same street “with no desire to hop it.” Slug either observes, sharing his own experiences, or using Ant’s canvas of piano and more organic beats to delve into the lives of others. You and The Waitress poses a balance between some relationship between waitress and a customer. The former a cynical waitress who just wishes “they would just eat and leave. And keep they eyes to theyself.” Slug’s recurring daily rhythm theme returns as she continues to struggle, “Each day this clock tick tock and you still a waitress, trying to pay them student loans, and the lights and the phone, and the food and the home.” The latter, The Waitress, presents a despondent customer taking empty pleasure in torturing a waitress, as if Goya had entered Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks to feed off the solitude. “Holding down the corner table all morning with some corn chips, ignoring the insults and evil eyes. I feed off of ’em, I wonder when she’ll realize that she’s the only reason I visit…”
Track 10: Guarantees
Despite the stellar production and better rhymes over their past official full length, there are a couple detractors that I can barely get through like The Skinny and Can’t Break. They just don’t fit (Ant’s beats are an organic progression on the others, the sound coming from recent live-band tours) and the album would be more fluid without them. Thankfully as with all Atmosphere albums, the final track is the anchor. On the same rails of Always Coming Back Home To You and Little Man in recent efforts, In Her Music Box serves as a befitting bookend to the Twin City tales of Slug & Ant. With vivid characters engrossed in their own personal tribulations, When Life Gives You Lemons… is a step up and beyond prior expectations built up season by season.
If you can, the hardcover book version is a must. Not only for the children’s book (you heard me right), but for the hour plus concert DVD shot at First Ave in Minneapolis.
If You Like:
The Hold Steady
The Lawrence Arms (A stretch, but they spin urban tales too)
Or daily grind, working, or even punk music