There - I said it. Though I'm thinking that "workmanlike" might actually be too kind an adjective to use in describing Relapse, Eminem's fifth album produced by Dr. Dre. "Workmanlike" suggests a modicum of competence, and Relapse isn't satisfying on any level whatsoever. Like, at all. It literally fails even at going through the shock-and-awe motions. Shady's immortal "I just don't give a fuck" refrain has been replaced by "Guess it's time for you to hate me again" (from "Medicine Ball"), which scans here as "Time to make the donuts."
There are vulgarities and inhumanities that flash by in a dull blur. There are all manner of stale celebrity rape and murder fantasies, rendered sans panache. The grating dialects that marred 04's Encore - a gone-loco trainwreck that improves in comparative retrospect - recur here, sliming Dre's canned carny beats. (All is forgiven, "Just Lose It." Defending that delirious bit of self-cannibalization is a cinch compared to justifying Em's latest.) Who'd have imagined, back when we were throwing "Yellow Brick Road" on mixtapes for friends, that there would come a time when we'd be nostalgic for vengeful-yet-impassioned rants about Eminem killing his ex-wife or loopy forget-me-nots about how much he loves his kids?
So thanks, Marshall, for making the Distillery's mission pretty much impossible. Distillery's aim is to break albums that are 16 or more songs long down to a manageable 10 keepers; with Relapse, I struggled to come up with eight - and one of those is a skit. Most of the others are tracks I can tolerate without having to fight off the urge to yank the CD out of the player and break it.
Marshall, by sobering up and wading into rap, you - probably inadvertently - have made an album that mirrors the circa-right-now experience of soldiering on through life in a world on the verge of collapse, day in and day out, despite feeling empty, uninspired, totally unsure whether the future holds much of anything, and convinced that our collective best days are far behind us.