I've lost track of how many times he's retired, having delivered his final rude word in album form as he looks forward to a solitary life of quiet contemplation and producing albums for Bobby Creekwater and Ca$his, whoever they were, but here we are again. Possibly it's only been the once, but somehow it feels like more.
Relapse, the first - or possibly second - comeback album, turned out to be one of the best things he'd ever recorded, against at least my own expectations, but this one, I just don't know...
I've listened to the album a fair few times but still come back to it without recalling much detail or experiencing any degree of anticipation, and am left on each occasion with a vague impression of eighty minutes of autotuned stadium rap wherein Eminem bangs on about the bitter struggle of being famous, as usual. On close inspection, this impression is actually wrong given that Rick Rubin has produced a few of the tracks here, for what that's worth; and what that's worth probably depends on how hard you're likely to come in your pants at the prospect of Rick Rubin tracks full of rock loops just like what he done for Run DMC back in the good old days when everything was better than it is now. Additionally, Eminem's own production now demonstrates much wider scope than it once did, having long since moved on from those plinky-plonky hip-hop Addams Family themes he kept turning out with all the gated snare and that.
Of course lyrically he continues to amaze, packing each line with the usual layers of echoing themes, puns, uproarious triple metaphors and all that other stuff which so endeared him to middle-class blokes with little round glasses who'd named their kids Jacob and Tamara following a Grauniad article in which some complete cock declared Eminem to be both the new Chaucer and the saviour of white rap. White people had been too embarrassed to rap after Vanilla Ice turned out to be a Republican senator, apparently, so Eminem was literally the first white man ever to rap properly like that Chuck D. The man said.
The problem is that by this point, I actually find it difficult to tell who the fuck he's whining about now. He was always one of the more self-referential rappers, a sort of microphone analogue to comic book twats like Joe Matt drawing comics about their porn addiction, followed by comics about the girlfriend reacting to his comic about porn addiction; but once you move away from mainstream media and lose track of whether Eminem is shagging Mariah Carey or back with wossername, there isn't much of this that makes a lot of sense without meticulously decoding all the metaphors and layered rhymes. At one point he even returns to his preferred easy targets of the old days, the Insane Clown Posse, but I can't tell if he still hates them, or if they turned up at his house with a fucking pie and they're all best buds now. There's too much information here, and whilst it's all lyrically dazzling, the content is obscure, at least aside from the track wherein he apologises to his mum for recording all those horrible songs about her, which if nice in many respects, also makes you wish he'd just been less of a knob in the first place.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 may be far from his best, although he's yet to record a really bad album; and for all it's faults, at least this one tries, I suppose.