By Julia Reidy; Photos by Mary Robbins
As a national music magazine, we receive approximately 1.4 quillion promotional CDs each year in the office. For the most part, the dozens of bubble mailers that arrive every day keep it short and sweet. Inside, we find a CD, a one-sheet band bio (with release date and contact info, please!!! Keep Paste‘s interns happy!), and very little else. It’s true that after hundreds, these mostly start to appear the same, and that occasionally, adding something gimmicky does catch our eye. Like when a band sent a 3-D performance photo and a pair of two-toned glasses to go along with it. That was neat. Or when someone included a bunch of miniature plastic games with their record. We were trying to get that little yellow ball on its string into the hole in the blue plastic paddle for the rest of the day. Or stickers. We like stickers. Anything else, largely, gets thrown out. That’s just how it is.
For especially embarrassing press photos and other bizarre paraphernalia, we have created an informal wall of shame. The most shameful thing to arrive in an unassuming brown envelope, however, could be mounted to no wall.
It was a Thursday. We were sifting through our bins of unopened mail, and I spotted an oddly-shaped package at the top of one heap. Intrigued, I ripped it open, and as always, stuck my hand in. Forgive the reference, but as they say in Titanic, at this point, all my experience was working against me. Months of bubble mailer opening had taught me that it’s safe to just reach in and pull out whatever is inside—and moreover, that whatever is inside will be clean and safe and dry. My mistake. My fingers found not the run-of-the-mill CD and random attention-getting object I had learned to expect from an unusually-proportioned press kit. Instead, an unfamiliar half-rancid, half-zesty odor assaulted my nostrils and I reflexively pulled my hand back out again. It was wet. There were flecks of gold on my fingers.
We were bewildered and without conclusion as we crowded around and peered inside the offending envelope. None of the sensory clues added up to anything any of us could identify. It’s a strange feeling when you think you should have enough input to at least hazard a guess at the situation, and yet you’re still completely dumbfounded. There was no visual to be had from the open end except for the shadowy side of something mottled and bulbous that intermittently caught the light.
After I vigorously washed my hands, we sprang into action. A pair of scissors was procured, which we used to cut open the envelope and to handle the contents inside. When aforementioned contents were first revealed to us, however, we still couldn’t say what we were looking at. It was round-ish. And squished-ish. And green-ish. And there were gold flakes everywhere. Below nestled a very damp and forlorn slimline CD case and an absolutely soaked one-sheet. Extracting the CD, we turned it over.
The unlucky album was by a hip-hop group called Atmosphere, and boasted the optimistic title, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (out April 22 on Rhymesayers). We stared at it. The front cover sported a picture of Slug (Atmosphere’s MC and primary creative driving force) holding stacks and stacks of lemons.
Suddenly, it all came together in the same way all the facts add up at the end of a murder mystery. The citrus-cleaner smell. The juice. The fuzzy green substance. The gold flakes.
“IT’S A MOLDY LEMON!” someone shouted. Someone else shrieked, “Painted gold!”
Now wait a second before you berate us for having taken so long to work through this particular puzzle. It seems simple enough to an outsider, I imagine (especially as it revealed itself to be so literal in the end), but take into account the fact that in no way would we ever expect to receive spoiled produce in a press kit. In a perfect world, in fact, no one would ever mail gold-coated citrus fruit in an unprotected, non-refrigerated package from so far away that it would have the time and opportunity to crush, soak everything, and then completely mold. These weren’t eventualities we knew to expect. Our collective jaws were on the floor.
They say any publicity is good publicity. I guess the jury’s still out on this one.
" target="new">Atmosphere – “Shoulda Known”