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Anything to Belong*
Like many bands that hope to persist through the years, Marilyn Manson has grown through his/their changes. Gone are the days of the lumpy Dope Hat (At least for now. I can easily picture, oh ten or twenty years up the road, where he and the band will return to their pre-Anti-Christ days and put on a concert tour "for the kids").
Everybody with half a brain got the Alice Cooper reference and enjoyed ANTI-CHRIST SUPERSTAR for what it was. I got a real kick out of the crotch huffing photo. This band is a hoot! The fact that those old 1970's style antics with a bit of updating can still shock is amazing. Marilyn pulled it off without simply imitating but by recreating the fear and unease and suiting it to match the times. Fans came away from the show feeling exhilarated but upset, which was the point in the first place.
Like all things shocking, Madison avenue quickly began homogenizing Marilyn into something a bit easier to swallow. Focusing on his affection for bizarre contact lenses, eyewear companies have come out with an entire string of their own crazy looking contacts. Not content to simply the change your eyecolor to some other race? Change your eye color to nothing else at all! Everything from the Marilyn Manson look to a black eightball. Pro Wrestlers like STING have followed suit.
So instead of allowing himself to be co-opted, Marilyn has reinvented himself and that is where OMEGA AND THE MECHANICAL ANIMALS comes in.
From a 1970's retro futuristic look via gold lame to a plasticized alien reconstruction of Marilyn himself ("Itself" in this case. You didn't like the constant genital references in his previous albums? No problem! No genitals or nipples in this incarnation! Happy now? Who wouldn't be?). The pictorial Bowie references are explicit.
The album collaboration with Trent Reznor and David Bowie on the LOST HIGHWAYS soundtrack has left its mark. The music sounds very Bowie-esque as well, but this is a Bowie who moved forward with his talents instead of running out of steam. In fact one song, The Speed Of Pain, starts off with an acoustic riff that made me think of David Bowie's Space Oddity before turning into a Bowie/Pink Floyd sound. This isn't a sound that Manson and company are used to playing, but the band takes to it, expands on it and somehow makes it their own, as surely as any great actor becomes the role.
The change from Horror Show Manson to Future Despair is seamless for the band and an incredible transformation considering all of the potential pitfalls that had to be overcome. Pits that bands from KISS to PRINCE have fallen into and many others as well.
Through the years we have heard radio play Tears For Fears and their Beatle suck off, Rhino Bucket's AC/DC in drag, and Kingdom Come clone themselves off of Led Zepplin. You won't hear such false notes on Mechanical Animals.
Manson, together with his bandmates who all pitched in to write the songs (talk about a coherent bunch!), have created a lush album that enriches a lost corridor of Rock and Roll, namely the much dissed glam rock. Yet Marilyn and the gang never lose sight of who they are and, in the process, plasticize themselves. I've listened to this CD over and over and not a single second comes across as phoney or filler. U2 should be so complete, HA!
The actual themes of the songs are standard Manson fare, they didn't lose their voice over this one, but the music makes a change in the meaning of the songs all of the same. Marilyn sometimes expresses concerns in places where I don't understand them. Such is the case with User Friendly, where a woman is only using him for sex,
"She says / I'm not in love, but I'm gonna fuck you / til somebody better comes along."
He makes that sound like a bad thing and I'm not sure why. Many is the time I've corralled some toy boy into lusting for and then stealing my girlfriend away from me. It's always much easier to have a girlfriend break up with me than me breaking up with her, plus she doesn't get angry with me and steal my Judas Priest and Pink Floyd collection for spite. (Note to my brothers: always, ALWAYS make sure you have a buddy somewhere who is better looking and more successful than you.) Still, I guess Marilyn is looking for an everlasting love. At any rate, he makes it sound like it's a big deal to him so to each his own.
The thing about Manson is that at once he both derides humanity and isolates himself from it, even while he considers rejoining it. In FUNDAMENTALLY LOATHSOME he sings,
"And I am resigned to this wicked fucking world /
Marilyn is not going to stop ape-ing the evils of this planet's various societies. He will continue to show them up for the domesticated trash that they are. He focuses primarily on his own country, the U.S.A., and chases after both the conservative Christian base as well as the souless Liberals. He attacks drug abuse despite the rumors of his own addictions. For Manson, there is just so much wickedness that the American Christian accepts and never fights against. If you bring it up to them, they will stare at you with a dull blank expression, or open hostility for the vulgar act of revealing their hypocrisy.
I personally have friends, some old enough to be my grandparents, that yearn for the
day when they can whip out their gun and "blow a bowling ball sized
hole through somebody giving me trouble." I believe everybody should
own at least one gun. But to call yourself a loving Christian and then
buy armor piercing hollow points? Preference over killing instead of wounding?
So much for the old days being so much better than today. As Marilyn says
in ROCK IS DEAD,
In a land where the bare-faced hypocritical citizens are more concerned with Monica Lewinsky giving our two-term president a blow job than the multi-thousands dying just off our borders in the largest Hurricane in the past 200 years; in a nation where more people express hopelessness and shock over Marilyn Manson and his media antics than they express outrage over three stupid racist filth dragging a man to death behind their pick-up truck; I find the look of Marilyn Manson and crew a hardcore kick in the ass of complacency. Their music is great as well and, even after ten years in the biz (no overnight sensation here) they can still produce albums that set the bar for all others.
You want pretense and collectable figurines? Go buy KISS stuff.
You want music that is the real deal? Then get
5 Perplex Skulls
This review copyright 1998 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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