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The return of the album review: Eminem’s “Relapse”

I haven’t done much album reviewing on this blog and that isn’t solely because I am more likely to buy a couple of songs off an album than the entire album. I bought the new Eminem in one gulp the day it was released though I had previously purchased four songs as they were offerred, and I bought Bitte Orca a couple of songs at a time and Rhett Miller over a period of a week.
The result of this new sense of discrimination is three fold, 1) it takes me awhile to review actually albums, 2) many of the songs I like i’ve already reviewed and 3) I tend to like the albums I buy even before I’ve completed buying them.
I hope to get to Dirt Projectors and Rhet Miller at a later date, but for now Eminem’s excellent “Relapse” deserves a closer look, especially since the mainstream media don’t appear to be too hot for ir. I have been baffled by the complaints about “Relapse”. Look at it this way: if you go to a supermarket and buy a pound of grapes and take em home and pop one in your mouth and it is an excellent grape, it would be asinine to complain that it is not a strawberry. But that seems to be the case with “Relapse” -it veers between brutality and brutal honesty with Dre’s trademark heavy beats and vast vocabulary of sample hooks easing the foot of off the peddle whenever necessary.

“Relapse” is the blueprint Eminem album, mostly Slim Shady raping and pillaging through popular culture with a hockey knife and a wit both blunt and sharp cutting up anything in its path and having sex with the corpses and Marshall Mathers III, hating his mother and cursing his life, passing out in his dinner and loving his daughter but drifting further and further away from her. He is Notorious Cobain!!!

But nobody would care if it wasn’t for the songs and the songs are knock out. “Crack A Bottle” is a return to form for not just Eminem but for Dre and Fitty as well; completely addictive and highly danceable, only Shady could make “Where’s the rubbers?” sound like a call to arms.

Actually, it would have been nice if their were a few more party songs like “Bottle,” but “We Made You’s” march to reality TV hell is fun and blank and the blankness is its point of view. But the dark side of the Shade and the dark side of white Mather, “3am” is a repulsive and compulsive slasher flick: the convulsions of the song like a man with his throat slashed. On “My Mom” he finds another rhyme for the horrifying word: the word is “valium,” which she used to mix in his food and “Deja Vu” where the net effect of his youth and his fame catches up with him and knocks him down -indeed, nearly kills him.

“Relapse” itself is a very strong suite of songs reconsidering his life after a five year hiatus. There isn’t a dog in the pack though you need a strong stomach to listen to “Insane” in which he is raped by his Uncle. His flow here, his flow everywhere, must be the envy of everyone: the wordplay so dense, the beats so haunting and ominous. It really is a remarkable effort: the equal of anything he has ever done and better than most.

Like Biggie he was ready to die and like Kurt his self-loathing was killing him. Mathers self-loathing is one of his governing charactestics and people miss it. It’s as if they can’t notice that every insult he hurls at Kim Kardashian or his Mom or Sarah Palin boomerangs right back at him.
Clearly, the man is a mess but human messes can make for great songs and they absolutely do on “Relapse’ -a nightmare riddled with blood and pills where every joke sticks in your craw and every beat is like a funeral march. the complaint is that Eminem isn’t cheerful or happy or pleasant. But when was he ever any of his stick. When he plays Slim Shady he is murderous and when he is Eminem he is murdered and when he is Mathers? He is young Elvis, oedipial (cmon, wadja think that’s all about), consumed by fame, straightening out and falling down. Eminem is a superstar.

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