"Them last two albums don't count," Eminem offers on "Talking 2 Myself" before proclaiming that "Encore I was on drugs/ Relapse, I was flushing 'em out." In this light, it's easy to view Recovery as the 12-step program. Specifically: This album's the step where the addict tries to make amends to everyone he's ever wronged, from fans that thought (like he does) that his last few albums were garbage, to his ubiquitous on-again off-again ex-wife Kim Mathers. At one point, he even offers mea culpas to folks he was thinking of insulting. (Sadly, the Insane Clown Posse might have to wait a couple more lifetimes before Em gets around to their apology.)
A contrite Eminem is an Eminem that takes some getting used to, especially when that contrition comes in the form of bathetic tracks like "Going Through Changes" (which, yes, samples the one and only Black Sabbath ballad). That said, it's hard to ignore his conviction. He spends a good deal of the album spitting out lyrics like there's a gun to his head, proving that the linguistic dexterity and speed he exhibited on albums past is still something to reckon with. And while what he offers as a clean-and-sober performer, both lyrically and musically, doesn't quite measure up to the inspired hard-hitting lunacy that made his name, the fact that this self-proclaimed "Cinderella Man" was able to pick himself up off the canvas and once again rise to the top of the pops is something that can't be overlooked. The days of Slim Shady are probably a thing of the past, and from the sound of Recovery, Marshall Mathers seems to be perfectly OK with that.