Atmosphere | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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"Still going, still maintaining," raps Atmosphere's Slug on "Give Me," three tracks into his brand-new album with producing partner Ant, God Loves Ugly (Rhymesayers Entertainment/Fat Beats). "Still standing in the land of snow and purple rain, and / I'm still waiting for my dates to kiss me or slap me / 'Cause there ain't no way I can be happy when I'm happy." And in case you think he's kidding, on "Hair" he sharpens the point: "I wear my scars like the rings on a pimp." Though the Minneapolis-based duo's 1997 debut, Overcast!, is heavy on boasting and straight party rhymes, since that record Atmosphere has switched gears to offer a hip-hop equivalent to the introspective college rock of Built to Spill or Modest Mouse. On both 1999's cassette-only Se7en and last year's critical breakthrough Lucy Ford, Slug's persona is equal parts lovelorn poet, peripatetic slacker, drunken bar regular, and class clown; one of his most striking moments is a love song titled "Don't Ever Fucking Question That." On God Loves Ugly he's apparently still wallowing in the same broken relationship he dissects on the previous album--if the teeth-gritting vitriol of "Fuck You Lucy" isn't enough to clue you in to his feelings, try saying "Lucy Ford" a few times fast. But even though Slug doesn't cover much new ground lyrically, God Loves Ugly explores those old themes in a blunter, tougher way than its predecessors. Ant's production is stripped-down and raw without sounding ascetic; "The Bass and the Movement" and "Flesh," for instance, are snarling party jams with bass lines as punishing as a kick in the stomach. Slug will be joined onstage by rapper Crescent Moon and DJ Mr. Dibbs. Monday, June 17, 6 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. Tuesday, June 18, 4:30 PM, Tower Records, 2301 N. Clark; 773-477-5994.

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