rating: 2.5When a kids getting bullied and shoots up his school and they blame it on Marilyn / And the heroin, where were the parents at? said Marshall Bruce Mathers III at twenty-eight years old, a fresh-faced hypercritical political observer with a pen and a supersonic tongue, but still a ten year old degenerate grabbing on genitals at heart. Thirteen years later, after terrorising Moby for still making music at thirty-six, it seems a lifetime of staring outwards has caught up on Eminem in The Marshall Mathers LP 2, he is more self-aware and diffident than ever. In a moment of stark honesty during Asshole, he confesses Its apparent I shouldnt have been a parent, Ill never grow up. If self-reflection is his new outlet of expression, what does this mean for the music? Is the second king of controversy (the worst thing since Elvis Presley) a soft touch? The answer: yes and no. He still hates women some things never change but his signature wit is ever so slightly less scathing (I got 99 problems and a bitch aint one / Shes all 99 of em, I need a machine gun!). That tongue of his is running at a healthy 6.5 words per second, as displayed in the dynamic electro grooves of Rap God, but when he admits to not being as big as was, it makes us wonder if he really is cognizant enough to work out why. After effectively disowning Encore and Relapse, he has left his previous album Recovery relatively untouched despite the fact that the moments where this album feels like a hangover from 2011 are its biggest flaws.
While Eminems writing ability seems largely back on the right track no more love is evil, spell it backwards Ill show you nonsense The Marshall Mathers LP 2 lacks what its spiritual father provided in heaps: hooks. Back then, Eminems multi-faceted talents as an artist of storytelling and a darkly comedic and often absurdist purveyor of ice cold satire allowed him to deliver resonant choruses at the centre of his genius raps. But here, that aspect of Slims output has taken a back seat to allow an assortment of docile guest stars to jar the entire flow of the album, binding him down with refrains that are barely even radio-friendly let alone memorable for the more involved listener. Astonishingly, in eight of the fifteen tracks (excluding the skit) Eminem doesnt get a word in edgeways during the chorus which means few of his verses are allowed to seep into the hooks with the same fluency as they did with such classics as Criminal. Instead they plod along a repetitive verse-chorus-verse loop most infuriatingly on the archetypal stiff pop singles like Survival, in which Slim draws a long list of Call of Duty metaphors over a mechanical pseudo-rock beat with less edge than a blunt pencil. The Monster fares even worse; lacking any meaning whatsoever beyond wild money-grabbing which, given its current position at the head of the charts, is working. Even the potential of penultimate track Headlights which involves Marshall Mathers finally apologising (I love you Debbie Mathers) to his mother after years of emotional and musical torment, law suits and refutation is squandered by the recurring squawks of Funs Nath Ruess. Some of the most genuinely profound words from Eminems lips since Cleanin Out My Closet are dissipated into a MOR pot of trifling indulgence, making this personal turmoil seem like passive schmaltz. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab9176Srb5Y That is not to say that the album is a repeat of Recovery it is kept afloat by adventurous movements like the leering, horrorcore opening track, Bad Guy, in which Slim Shady finally pays for his indirect responsibility for the death of Stan at none other than the hands of Matthew, Stans brother. This exhilarating belated sequel is cathartic; its almost symbolic of unfinished business that has been hanging over Mathers for a decade and has finally been addressed.But the album sadly never lives up to this 7-minute epic, despite some worthy efforts from Brainless' which balances a tight melody with some more introspective glances into Eminems struggle with bullying as a child, how putting pen to paper purged him and the role of his mum among all the misery and the Rick Rubin-produced Beastie Boys/Billy Squier synthesis romp Berzerk. The latter is one of the best singles Eminem has put out in a decade its here that he really finds the balance between catchy hooks and funky verses that hes looking for, and he manages it with the help of good old sampling rather than guest appearances. And, while it does sound like vintage Slim in places, there is something forward-glancing about how old-skool it is too. In The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Eminem combines this sense of past, present and future with musings on finally coming-of-middle-age and evaluating his current position in the world as a father, a musician and a person. Much like its title hero, the album is its own worst enemy and, at worst, a messy affair. Irksomely, there is a genuinely commendable successor to arguably the best rap album of the 00s in here somewhere, but it spends far too much time wrestling with the need to appeal to casual radio audiences with collaborative overkill to acknowledge its latency. The subsequent complacency in some of the album tracks suggests that grown-up Eminem may not be quite as discerning as he first appears. Its got a wild schizoid underbelly thats begging to be set free, and one can only hope that Marshall Mathers will detect it before hes too old and has let go.