On track Talkin’ 2 Myself, Eminem declares that: ‘Them last 2 albums didn’t count/ Encore I was on drugs, Relapse, I was flushin’ em out.’ Any chance of a refund then, Mr Mathers? It’s a dangerous tactic to rubbish your own records, but one gets the impression that Eminem is on a mission to start afresh here. Gone are the skits, and the obligatory tongue in cheek single that’s appeared on every other album (see My Name Is; The Real Slim Shady; Without Me; Just Lose It; We Made You). There’s not even a mention of Christopher Reeve or Sonny Bono, although not all celebrities are off the hook (Michael J Fox picks up the unwanted baton of ridicule on a number of occasions), and Eminem frequently draws upon his relationships with his ex-wife and daughter, subject matter that has served him so fruitfully in the past.
Apart from the occasional nod to his mischievous side, Recovery, is a very solemn affair, and although the mood could do with lifting now and then, it’s nice to see Eminem step outside the tried and tested formula of insults and humour to become a completely serious artist. The rapping is spectacularly good, and there’s a vigour to his voice that I’ve never heard before; a severe, unflinching snarl that simply forces you to listen to what he has to say. Unfortunately, he does tend to say the same thing over and over again, and the message that he’s ‘back and better than ever’ is used so often that it becomes boring after a fashion. Melodically, Recovery is without a doubt Eminem’s strongest, and indeed, most diverse album. With tracks Space Bound and Love The Way You Lie, he even dabbles in balladry (if such a thing exists in hip-hop), and his rapping blends wonderfully with the tuneful choruses.
At 77 minutes, Recovery is tough to listen to in one sitting, but that doesn’t prevent it from being one of, if not the best album Eminem’s ever made.