I had a pleasant surprise the other day when I clicked a link on Facebook. The link was for Marilyn Manson’s new video for “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge.” The link reminded me that Manson is in the habit of making pretty good videos, but that wasn’t the pleasant surprise. I found the video dull and the song didn’t really appeal to me. Sure, I’m an alcoholic, but I only ever had three day binges. I don’t have access to the amounts of cocaine Manson does.
But then I remembered that I really enjoyed the lead single off The Pale Emperor, “Deep Six.” I liked it so much I put it in my top 10 for 2014. So I went to Spotify to check out the album and found it is surprisingly good.
Like most angry, disaffected, ill tempered teenagers around the late 90’s (I assume) I thought Marilyn Manson was the coolest thing since sliced bread. What was there for a counterculture loving youth not to like? Everything about him seemed tailor made to piss off my parents and make me think he was awesome. There was the overt satanism, the omnipresent partial nudity, the thought provoking (though in retrospect somewhat juvenile) lyrics. It was great. (I have the added benefit of living about 20 minutes south of Manson’s hometown of Canton, OH which I’m sure did nothing to curb my enthusiasm.)
But then, like most artists, he began the long, slow descent into mere celebrity. If you see Manson on a TV show or in the news today you don’t always thinks so much of his music as the public figure he’s created. Which is sad. Portrait of an American Family is still a singular album that has never been duplicated. Antichrist Superstar is a truly brilliant metal album. Mechanical Animals was half good and half filler. The Golden Age of Grotesque was a great album with the brilliant John 5 on guitar and Eat Me, Drink Me was an interesting collaboration with Tim Skold.
But a few of his records are just boring and derivative of his better work. Holy Wood, The High End of Low and Born Villain were not enough to keep me interested. The songs titles themselves sound like parodies of what Manson was in his heyday (“Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon,” “Pretty as a ($),” “Murderers are Getting Prettier Everyday”). Even having Johnny Depp join him for Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” wasn’t enough to rekindle my interest.
But that great guitar work on “Deep Six” along with the punny lyric “You want to know what Zeus said to Narcissus? You’d better watch yourself” was enough to get me to listen to the album the other night. I have to say it’s much better than his past few albums.
I suppose the main reason behind that is that the album was made with film composer Tyler Bates. Bates has a pretty hefty resume. He met Manson working on Showtime’s Californication and has also scored most of Zack Snyder’s and Rob Zombie’s movies as well as a few other gems. His musicianship and songwriting makes for the best Manson album since Eat Me, Drink Me.
While there are still some stereotypical Manson-isms (“The Devil Beneath My Feet,” “Cupid Carries a Gun”) His delivery and melodies are better. There are still a lot of the silly pun lyrics, but they’re sung much better and make for much better tunes. My favorite may be “Mephistopheles of Los Angeles” because of the way he rhymes ‘Mephistopheleeeeez’ with ‘Los Angeleeeeez.’
I find the music to be more entertaining also. Instead of the straight ahead industrial metal of the past umpteen albums there’s more of a blues-meet-drum machines feel to this one. It sounds more organic and fun than Born Villain or Holy Wood. The deluxe edition even comes with some cool acoustic versions of “Day 3” and “Mephistopholes.”
While this album won’t rally any new fans to Marilyn Manson, I’m sure it will reinvigorate some old ones.