(You will notice in here that I refer to the lead singer, Marilyn Manson, as if he were a solo artist. This is not true, and is patently unfair to the other musicians and artists in the band. But as Manson is the only lyricist, story teller and continuous member of the band, I’m going to refer to the band personified as the singular person that “is” Marilyn Manson.)
I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of Marilyn Manson. I’ve listened to his music in passing, but never really given it much thought. The way he looked, the way he sounds, the way he acts, it just seemed like a novelty gig. I more or less wrote him off and enjoyed the singles for what they seemed to be, specifically crafted sounds geared towards the angsty-teen demographic. This all changed when I realized that he has been making music for more than sixteen years and is about to release his eighth album.
Sixteen years is a long time to be a novelty act, so I thought there might be something to this Manson fellow. After all, we all would have gotten bored of this stuff after a few years if his only appeal was for freaking out one’s parents. He might have a legitimate musical or thematic artistry. On that note, I decided to take a trip through the sonic world of Marilyn Manson and hear what he had to say. Join me for the highlights of a week trip into the abyss; 7 albums over 7 days from America’s self proclaimed Antichrist.
Day 1: Portrait of an American Family 1994
Highlight Song: Snake Eyes and Sissies
Highlight Lyric: “My big top tricks will always make you happy, but we all know the hat is wearing me.”
I’m finding it hard to put into words how I feel about the music I just heard. On the one hand, it’s a pop version of industrial metal. Choruses that are catchy to the ear, but heavy enough to make you consider turning down the volume (though, if you do, you instantly must lose your rock-card for the day, pansy.) On the other hand, getting caught singing these choruses out of context might get you in trouble. Lyrically, they’re about as naughty as you can get in 1994. Nine Inch Nails might have been angry, but Manson is just dirty, and awesome for that. It’s a small wonder there isn’t a full CD of recordings like the ones as the end of this one, where a parent calls up and threatens legal action if their child is ever sent any more “pornographic material” from the band. The music itself is a bit raw. You can feel its age, the lack of polish. It’s not bad, but musically it’s nothing to write home about.
To an extent though, that’s hardly why you’re listening to Manson, you’re listening to hear stuff that is darker and slimier than anything you’ll get anywhere else. But the raunchy lyrics and outrageous style are part of a bigger game (besides the infamy and appeal that comes with “being Marilyn Manson”) and it is where Marilyn shines. The entire point of the album is Manson pointing out the hypocrisy in others, then being open and honest with his own sins. After we’re all on the same level, he dares you to hate him, thus hating yourself. Manson has to be one of the easiest people alive to hate. He intentionally named himself after a serial killer, and then wrote an entire song featuring only poetry from said serial killer and put it on his debut. He has engineered himself to be the common enemy of all people, but then devastatingly shows that no one is any better than he is. We all have our fixes, we all have our vices. We hate him because he’s made himself a freak, and then he showed us that we’re all freaks.
That’s one really complicated novelty act…
Day 2: Antichrist Superstar 1996
Highlight Song: 1996
Highlight Lyric: “I am so all-american, I’ll sell you suicide.”
First thing I notice is: Holy production values Batman! You can definitely feel a more shiny and neat Manson being presented to us. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still the world’s filthiest mirror of human kind, but there’s a polish to it that is brand new. In fact, he actually feels… nicer? I really mean that. Compared to the raw sound of the first album, this is much more elegant. It’s partially that Manson is telling a story on this album, the third part of an apocalyptic trilogy about the rise of the… you guessed it, the Antichrist. It’s not considered family friendly music, but it’s again aimed at the people that won’t want to hear it.
If you were alive in the 90′s, and grew up in suburbia like me, it was probably one of those CDs your parents banned from your house. It was also one of those that you had a morbid interest in simply because it was contraband. Maybe you manned up and got ahold of it and played it in your treehouse. You then might have noticed it’s carefully composed themes of destiny and the eventual decay of society. Or the uselessness of hatred and anger. Or how the rise of the Antichrist was allowed only by the festering unhappiness in the silent minorities. You heard the same guitar riffs echoed throughout the CD to go along with each genre of song. One might have then seen the structure of the album set up in three parts, setting us all up for a grand music experience with the coming albums.
Or you might have pansied out and not looked at it until you were twenty one and writing an article on it.
But no review would be complete without reminding you of Marilyn’s resounding message of caution: When all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed.
Take from that what you will.