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Eminem Rants as Crown Passes to Monkeys, Monae: Review

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Sept. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Eminem is blasting back. He’s a rebel without a clue. And boy, is he furious.

He packs a lot of venom and more than 10 F-words into the nasty 4½ minutes of “Survival,” made for the computer game “Call of Duty: Ghosts.” (Rating: No stars.)

His single “Berzerk,” which precedes an album due in November, is “old skool” rap, like the Beastie Boys circa 1987. The angry not-so-young man boasts he’s still a “public enemy.” (Rating: *.)

Who’s he kidding? What’s he rebelling against? Or as Johnny said in “The Wild One,” “What’ve you got?”

Fame, money, coverage -- and countless upstarts dying to steal his rock crown.

Here’s news for Eminem. There are any number of better young pretenders breaking down his door.

Take the Arctic Monkeys. Yes, the name is as silly as ever, and the northern English accents almost as impenetrable. Not that this should stop them: If the Beatles got away with a Liverpudlian twang, a Sheffield burr can go a long way.

Those of us who heard them at Glastonbury saw how much the Monkeys had grown up in public.

The change was glaring compared to the last time I saw them, supporting the Black Keys at Madison Square Garden. Now they sound a little like the Keys themselves, with a dash of the Smiths and Black Sabbath.

The new album “AM” is full of muscular riffs and edgy sounds that don’t outstay their welcome. (Rating: ****.)

Janelle Monae’s “The Electric Lady,” out yesterday, manages to improve on “The ArchAndroid,” one of the best albums of 2010. Monae’s default sound is R&B, though she gleefully throws in soul, rock, funk, jazz and anything else she finds lying around the studio.

One caveat: the overdone concept. The album consists of the fourth and fifth installments of a suite called “Metropolis.”

Anyone who’s seen her live knows Monae is a dancer with Michael Jackson moves. The albums also demonstrate her prolific, Prince-like talent. Prince himself shows up on one track, “Givin Em What They Love.” (Rating: *****.)

Jason Isbell isn’t so well-known yet. The signs are that he will be.

The Alabama musician’s “Southeastern” is about his fall and rise. He left indie band Drive-By Truckers as the group looked set for wider success -- a decision that looked dumb at first until he started working on new material.

“Southeastern” recounts his sobriety after months of lost weekends, lost weekdays, and lost loves. “Songs That She Sang in the Shower” is a sweet acoustic tale of heartbreak. (Rating: ***.)

For more alt-country crossed by folk, check out Neko Case.

The Virginia-born songwriter has returned with an album bearing a title that rivals Fiona Apple for wordiness. (Deep breath.) “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.”

Case says she’s no tomboy: She’s more “a man’s man.” The opener “Wild Creatures” has her “fighting to be wild” to a beguiling accompaniment of soft guitars and lush keyboards. (Rating: ***.)

What the Stars Mean:
*****      Exceptional
****       Excellent
***        Good
**         Average
*          Poor
(No stars) Worthless

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Manuela Hoelterhoff on arts, Scott Reyburn on the art market and Ryan Sutton on U.S. restaurants.

To contact the writer on the story: Mark Beech in London at mbeech@bloomberg.net or http://twitter.com/Mark_Beech.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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