Rating:

* * * *

It's a line like "I guess it's time for you to hate me again" that sums up Eminem's simple genius. It's obnoxious, disdainful and most importantly, gets a chuckle every time you hear him say it on

Medicine Ball

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, one of the most cutting incorrigible tracks on the Detroit rapper's new album

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.

On this song he commits what is surely an ultimate showbiz sin by continuing to knock Christopher Reeve, who he has mocked many times in the past, now that he's dead.

And Eminem's reasoning? "Like it's my fault his name rhymes with so many different words." Yes, go ahead and hate him.

Following

Medicine Ball

, the funniest of the album's five skits features a guy called Paul - presumably manager Paul D. Rosenberg - on the phone telling him he's gone too far this time. Still nothing like a bit more Superman-bashing to make an impact on a comeback. This is his first album in five years following the lacklustre

Encore

in 2004 and n he's been through the mill.

Yes, it's hard to feel sorry for the 36-year-old brat, but his best mate Proof was shot dead, he succumbed to addiction, and suffered musical and creative burnout. He battened down the hatches of his opulent mansion just outside of Detroit and became a recluse.

So, on

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, of course he's bound to unleash. There's the trademark posturing and bravado, and he mines familiar territory, bagging tabloid celebrities and his mom ("My mom loved valium and lots of drugs, that's why I am like I am cause I'm like her."); dreaming of nude, rude sessions with Jessica Alba; and it's typically offensive and at times obscene (predictably it's women who cop it). The main difference on

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is tone: rather than being an

overbearing smart-arse, which always made him equally a novelty act and star rapper, Eminem is hardcore, angry and hateful with gleeful flashes of cheek.

While there are a few bland moments, like

Must Be the Ganja

(a meandering stoner jaunt),

Beautiful

and

Deja Vu

(both too long and laborious), it's tracks like soulful second single

We Made You

and the murderous rampage of

3A.M.

that kick the album along.

Then there's

Old Times Sake

, with Eminem trading verses with rapper/producer Dr Dre who vents some of his swingin' old-school N.W.A. venom; final track

Underground

is more like a finale to a stage show musical than a hip-hop song; and the stand-out is

Bagpipes From Baghdad

, with its woozy snakecharmer pipe and loping beat which is one of Dre's best creations yet.

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is Eminem's best album since

The Marshall Mathers LP

in 2000. While it's not the classic that that record and 1999's

The Slim Shady LP

were, it's a formidable return to form.

Scott Kara