Anti-downloading advocacy be damned: Put an a cappella mix of your single out there and the digital wolves are bound to descend. Want proof? Go to www.base58.com/booms/, and you’ll discover dozens of available bootleg remixes of Eminem’s “Without Me.” But the bonanza isn’t the pairing of the tune with Prodigy’s “Breathe” or Zep’s “The Wanton Song.” “Marshall’s Been Snookered” is not only the first Eminem track even your grandmother—or maybe your great-grandmother—could appreciate, it’s every bit as wicked as the Pet Shop Boys’ now infamous “The Night I Fell in Love.” Named in tribute to Freelance Hellraiser, who hooked the Strokes up with Christina Aguilera, Freelance Hairdresser reverses the prevailing sampling orthodoxy: Instead of adding old sounds to new beats, (s)he grafts Eminem’s vocal on top of a boisterous, crackling-vinyl recording of a ragtime piano.
As Weblogger Nate Patrin points out, the original track not only owes beat-points to the techno “nobody listens to” (and that Moby doesn’t even make anymore), but Em’s chief benefactor has a year on the “old” guy in question. But over a solo instrument whose wormwood is older than Dr. Dre and Moby combined, Em’s gleeful shout of “Nobody listens to techno!” is a masterstroke; so is the pool-table break at song’s end. Eminem rides the piano’s dauntingly intricate rhythms with so much ease it makes you wonder what other MCs might sound like under similar circumstances. And sped up to fit the pianist’s attack, his nasal voice becomes even more pinched, creating an eerie resemblance to Al Jolson’s or Eddie Cantor’s: The song transforms Eminem into an older kind of song and dance man so convincingly that you can practically smell the cork burning.