Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Marilyn Manson from Worst to First (2.0)

I was in the sixth grade when I got my first Marilyn Manson CD. The CD was called Antichrist Superstar and it left a rather indelible mark of me. It scared the crap out of me and I told all my friends about it just wondering if they'd heard this before. Only a few had and that made me feel like I had just discovered a giant fossil in my backyard.

Just before I go any further I should state that my parents are conservative southern Christians (although not the church-going kind) and my dad has bought me the majority of my CD's. He has encouraged my music habit and I've never heard him say that I shouldn't listen to anything. So perhaps the fact that my father has bought me anything by Marilyn Manson and Slayer is pretty remarkable. Especially when you consider the fact that I was only thirteen when I got my first Manson.

My parents are awesome.

Anyway, Marilyn Manson's music pretty much ruled my life from the time I was in the sixth grade until I was in the ninth grade. After that I stopped listening to him so much. It's not that Manson got boring for me, but I'd already listened to everything he'd released up to that point about a dozen times and it was time to move on other things.

Just recently I decided to revisit the music of MM to try understand just what his music was about because I honestly had no idea for the longest time. I originally just listened to it because it was scary.

9. Eat Me, Drink Me (2007) - This is my second time with this list and there are a few changes. This one had been ranked second-to-last, but after a change of heart I dropped it to last. Quite frankly, I just don't like this album that much. It's just kind of boring. What songs I used to like from it now just kind of get on my nerves. 

If I Was Your Vampire 5:56
Putting Holes in Happiness 4:31
The Red Carpet Grave 4:05
They Said That Hell's Not Hot 4:17
Just a Car Crash Away 4:55
Heart-Shaped Glasses (When the Heart Guides the Hand) 5:05
Evidence 5:19
Are You the Rabbit? 4:14
Mutilation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery 3:52
You and Me and the Devil Makes 3 4:24
Eat Me, Drink Me 5:40

Line-up: Marilyn Manson, Tim Sköld

8. The High End of Low (2009) - There are some really good songs on here like We're from America, Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon, and Running to the Edge of the World. While Eat Me, Drink Me was more goth-driven rock, The High End of Low is more Mechanical Animals-esque although quite a bit more personal. I like Marilyn Manson when he sounds like a normal human being just as much as the next person, but this album just feels a bit too long to me. A few less songs and a bit more bite could have done wonders. 

Devour 3:46
Pretty as a Swastika 2:45
Leave a Scar 3:55
Four Rusted Horses 5:00
Arma-Goddamn-Motherfuckin-Geddon 3:39
Blank and White 4:27
Running to the Edge of the World 6:26
I Want to Kill You Like They Do in the Movies 9:02
WOW 4:55
Wight Spider 5:33
Unkillable Monster 3:44
We're from America 5:04
I Have to Look Up Just to See Hell 4:12
Into the Fire 5:15
15 4:21

Line-up: Marilyn Manson, Twiggy Ramirez, Chris Vrenna, Ginger Fish

7. Born Villain (2012) - I didn't have high hopes for this album at all. His past few releases had been underwhelming. When this album was released a lot of people said the same thing. I can't really disagree with them that much. Even the artwork looks bland. The first two songs are pretty good, though. Then Pistol Whipped kicks in and I just kind of... What was I listening to again? It's just such a bland-sounding song and this album trudges along the same path as many of his post-Holy Wood efforts. Although I do like the cover of You're So Vain

Hey, Cruel World... 3:44
No Reflection 4:36
Pistol Whipped 4:10
Overneath the Path of Misery 5:18
Slo-Mo-Tion 4:24
The Gardener 4:39
The Flowers of Evil 5:19
Children of Cain 5:17
Disengaged 3:25
Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms 4:13
Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day 4:18
Born Villain 5:26
Breaking the Same Old Ground 4:27
You're So Vain (Carly Simon cover) 4:02

Line-up: Marilyn Manson, Twiggy Ramirez, Chris Vrenna, Fred Sablan

6. The Golden Age of Grotesque (2003) - This was considered to be the weakest and least controversial of Manson's work at the time of this album's release. I suppose that argument could still be made today, too. Now I don't listen to anything just because it's controversial. I listen to something because it is good and if it's thought-provoking then that's even better. The Golden Age of Grotesque strikes me as neither thought-provoking nor controversial, but it's still very good. Especially the first half.

Thaeter 1:14
This Is the New Shit  4:20
Doll-Dagga Buzz-Buzz Ziggety-Zag 4:11
Use Your Fist and Not Your Mouth 3:34
The Golden Age of Grotesque 4:05
(s)AINT 3:42
Ka-boom Ka-boom 4:02
Slutgarden 4:06
♠ 4:34
Para-noir 6:01
The Bright Young Things 4:19
Better of Two Evils 3:48
Vodevil 4:39
Obsequey (The Death of Art) 1:34

Line-up:  Marilyn Manson, John 5, Tim Sköld, Madonna Wayne Gacy, Ginger Fish

5. The Pale Emperor (2015) - The first song on this album didn't win me over at first. I heard it and just thought, "Again? What's with this blandness?" Even the artwork continued a trend of blandness. Then I listened to the second song Deep Six and began to get hopeful. When Third Day of a Seven Day Binge started playing I think I was won over. This may sound odd, but I was beginning to hear Marilyn Manson channel his inner-Jim Morrison on this album. The album, while still kind of glammy and industrial-sounding, has a very bluesy feel. When I listened to the album on a second listen Killing Strangers stood out a lot more and it actually started to remind me of early Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. This is the first time in a while I listened to a Marilyn Manson album the entire way through on the first time. And then bothered to listen to it again. 

I don't want to say Marilyn Manson is back, but he does still have a trick or two up his sleeve. I like this one. 

Killing Strangers 5:36
Deep Six 5:02

Third Day of a Seven Day Binge 4:26
The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles 4:57
Warship My Wreck 5:57
Slave Only Dreams to Be King 5:20
The Devil Beneath My Feet 4:16
Birds of Hell Awaiting 5:05
Cupid Carries a Gun 4:59
Odds of Even 6:22

Line-up: Marilyn Manson, Tyler Bates, Gil Sharone

4. Portrait of an American Family (1994) - It's really hard to believe that this is where it all started. It's a simple hard rock album and not much more. There's no grand story or theme like there would be with Marilyn Manson's Mechanical Animals, Antichrist Superstar, or Holy Wood. In fact what Manson would become is only hinted at here with songs like Cake and Sodomy and Get Your Gunn. The artwork is not all that offensive and the album opens with a spoken-word reference to the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The album sounds fun and that's the only Manson album that I can really say that about.

Prelude (The Family Trip) 1:22
Cake and Sodomy 3:53
Lunchbox 4:34
Organ Grinder 4:22
Cyclops 3:32
Dope Hat 4:20
Get Your Gunn 3:17
Wrapped in Plastic 5:35
Dogma 3:26
Sweet Tooth 5:03
Snake Eyes and Sissies 4:07
My Monkey 4:31
Misery Machine* 13:09

Line-up: Marilyn Manson, Daisy Berkowitz, Madonna Wayne Gacy, Sara Lee Lucas, Gidget Gein, Twiggy Ramirez

(*) the actual song ends at 5:03

3. Mechanical Animals (1998) - Marilyn Manson becomes a glam spaceman in this outing. Well, sort of. This album is Marilyn Manson's second concept album and it was the follow-up to the massive Antichrist Superstar. Needless to say that it wasn't quite received the same way and Marilyn Manson was accused of selling out by some of his fans. Then of course the controversy really kicked in once the Columbine Massacre happened a little under a year after this album's release and Marilyn Manson (even though the kids behind Columbine were not fans of his) along with Rammstein (there were mentions of Rammstein lyrics in Eric Harris's journal) and KMFDM (a comment found in Eric Harris's journal about the release date of the KMFDM album Adios being the exact same date that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold planned to do their deed) got thrown under the bus. Manson wrote about the subject here if you care to read his thoughts about being labeled an inspiration for mass murder.

At any rate, this album is a hidden gem. Glossier than anything the band had released up until the point, but it's still very good. This is also the first entry on my list to be a concept album. In fact it's the second part of a larger trilogy in the Manson catalog. The first chapter is Holy Wood, the second chapter is Mechanical Animals, and the last chapter is Antichrist Superstar.

According to Wikipedia the story line is:

In the album, Manson takes on two roles, being a substance addicted glam rocker and a gender ambiguous Alien called Omēga (pronounced oh-mee-gah) who, much like David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, falls down to earth, is captured, placed with a band called The Mechanical Animals and turned into a rock star product. He has become numb to the world, either lost or high in outer space or the Hollywood Hills, through excessive drug use as a coping mechanism with his life as a product of his corporate masters. Manson's other role is that of Alpha who is based on himself and his experiences around the conclusion of the Antichrist Superstar tour/era. Acting as Omēga's foil, Alpha's emotions have only begun seeping back. Vulnerable and trying to relearn how to use them properly, he despairs about how little emotion other people feel, observing them to be "mechanical animals". Both are looking to come back into the world - looking among the mechanical animals for the thing they need to make themselves whole. They call it Coma White, unsure if she is real or simply a drug induced hallucination. Subsequently, seven of the fourteen songs are from the perspective, lyrically and musically, of Omēga and his fictional band The Mechanical Animals, while the other seven are by Alpha (Marilyn Manson). The Omēga songs are typically those most nihilistic and superficial lyrically, such as "The Dope Show", "User Friendly" and "New Model No. 15". The album artwork features a dual liner note book, in which one half has lyrics for the Omēga songs, and when flipped over, has those for the Alpha songs.

Marilyn Manson later noted in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine that "Mechanical Animals was to represent the point where the revolution got sold out, a hollow shell of what the essence of Marilyn Manson was. It was a satire, and a lot of people interpreted it as 'This is what he really is.' I was making a mockery of what I was, taking a shot at myself."

Great Big White World 5:01
The Dope Show 3:46
Mechanical Animals 4:33
Rock Is Dead 3:09
Disassociative 4:50
The Speed of Pain 5:30
Posthuman 4:17
I Want to Disappear 2:56
I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me) 5:03
New Model No. 15 3:40
User Friendly 4:17
Fundamentally Loathsome 4:49
The Last Day on Earth 5:01
Coma White 5:38
15.Untitled (data track) 1:22

Line-up: Marilyn Manson, Twiggy Ramirez, Madonna Wayne Gacy, Ginger Fish, Zim Zum, John 5

2. Antichrist Superstar (1996) - What an incredibly dark and shocking album this was when I first heard it. But perhaps the most shocking thing is just how intelligent this album is. Groups like Slayer and Venom write songs about Satan and darkness in an attempt to sound evil, but they often just come off as being ignorant. I love Slayer and Venom, but they've never written anything extremely intelligent. There's no story with Slayer, but with Manson we get a story.

Now let's consult Wikipedia for the story line:

The three part storyline begins with the Crowleyean statement "When you are suffering, know that I have betrayed you". The backdrop is set to a landscape of 'victims' (the 'weak'; Nietzsche's 'slaves' in his Master-Slave morality) oppressed by "The Beautiful People" (the 'masters'), a kratocraticplutarchy whose power is, in a double entendre with phallic and religious connotation, "relative to the size of their steeple" and whose authority is Social Darwinism taken to the extreme—they are "justified" by the existence of the weak. Among that populace is an abused and insignificant wretch, the protagonist, called "The Worm", who develop aspirations to become one of the elite. However, he is rejected in as simple terms and after wallowing for a time in sorrow and self-pity concludes to exercise his will to power and seize authority with his own hands. The record proceeds to detail his rise to prominence presented in the metaphor of a worm to angel metamorphosis.

In his rise to power, he fashions himself into a charismatic demagogue and hierophant, the "Little Horn", to proselytize self-determination and self-realization and to usher in a new metanarrative in place of the hitherto reigning ideal. In spite of this, the Little Horn is self-punishing, with self-doubt still lingering from his dejected former self. The people respond to his revolution with adoration and blandishment. Thus, though he is successful in his aims, he is soon disillusioned and begins to despise those very adoring and sycophantic disciples when he comes to the realization that they are not interested in being saved and quite content to remain weak, imitative and oppressed. It's under this intolerable failure that he begins the final stage of his development. Dying in the manner of a caterpillar, the Little Horn rebirths himself under intense pressure, emptying his cocoon of the self-loathing, guilt and abuse that marked the Worm in harrowing fashion, to "get his wings".

Having transcended his lesser nature, all he has left is his bitterness and disenchantment. He has shed his ability to feel empathy for anyone and repurposes his newfound stature and confidence in becoming the penultimate culture war iconoclast, a Nietzschean Übermensch calling himself the"Antichrist Superstar" (or alternatively, "The Disintegrator"), having finally concluded that what the people truly want is what he sought to dispose of. They no longer deserve salvation. In this manner he adopts as his personal insignia the epithet "When you are suffering, know that I have betrayed you" as he lets his scathing vitriol spiral into nihilism and misanthropy, railing against and destroying everything. Spent and disconsolate, the "Minute of Decay" intimates that "I'm on my way down now, I'd like to take you with me. I'm on my way down" as he embarks on a final scorched earth campaign of apocalypse, delivering the condemnation, "your world is an ashtray, we burn and coil like cigarettes [...] it's the nature of the leeches, the virgins [to feel] cheated, you've only spent a second of your life" and contracting the world like the pupil of an eye into the size of a bullethole, "one shot and your world gets smaller". He begins to destroy everyone and everything including himself and his revolution, declaring, "pray your life was just a dream, the cut that never heals [...] the world in my hands, there's no one left to hear you scream [...] no one left for you". As he abrogates everything into nothingness, he begins to understand that "when all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed".

And that's the story of that one. 

Cycle I: The Heirophant
Irresponsible Hate Anthem 4:17
The Beautiful People 3:38
Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World 4:16
Tourniquet 4:29

Cycle II: Inauguration of the Worm
Little Horn 2:43
Cryptorchid 2:44
Deformography 4:31
Wormboy 3:56
Mister Superstar 5:04
Angel with the Scabbed Wings 3:52
Kinderfeld 4:51

Cycle III: Disintegrator Rising
Antichrist Superstar 5:14
1996 4:01
Minute of Decay 4:44
The Reflecting God 5:36
Man That You Fear 6:10
Track 99 (hidden track) 1:39

Line-up: Marilyn Manson, Twiggy Ramirez, Daisy Berkowitz, Madonna Wayne Gacy, Ginger Fish, Zim Zum

1. Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (2000) - Written largely as a response to the Columbine Massacre, Holy Wood combines lessons learned from Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals to create what I think is his strongest and most diverse album to date.

Now again I'll go to Wikipedia for the story line:

The album's plot is a "parable" that takes place in a thinly-veiled satire of modern America called "Holy Wood", which Manson has described as a Disneyesque amusement park the size of a city, where the main attraction is violence and sex. Its literary foil is "Death Valley", which is used as "a metaphor for the outcast and the imperfect of the world."

The central character is its ill-fated protagonist "Adam Kadmon", a figure borrowed from the Kabbalah, in which he is described as the "Primal Man". In the similar Sufic and Alevi philosophies, he is described as the "Perfect or Complete Man"—an archetype for humanity. He undertakes a journey out of Death Valley and into Holy Wood. Idealistic and naïve, he attempts a subversive revolution through music.

While disenchanted when his revolution is consumed by Holy Wood's ideology of "Guns, God and Government", he is co-opted into their culture of death and fame, where celebrity worship, violence, and scapegoatism are held as the moral values of a religion rooted in martyrdom. In this religion dead celebrities are venerated into saints and President John F. "Jack" Kennedy is idolized as the modern-day Christ.

This religion, called "Celebritarianism", is a deliberate parallel of Christianity. The intention is to critique the dead-celebrity phenomenon in American culture and the role that the Crucifixion of Jesus plays as its blueprint. This concept was extended to the worldwide Guns, God and Government Tour that supported the album; the tour's logo was a rifle and handguns arranged to resemble the Christian cross.

Manson told Rolling Stone that the storyline is semi-autobiographical. While it can be viewed on several levels, Manson states the simplest interpretation is to see it as a story about an angry youth whose revolution becomes commercialized, which leads him to "destroy the thing he has created, which is himself."

I'm not sure I have any idea what all of that means, but it sounds interesting.

A: In the Shadow
GodEatGod 2:34
The Love Song 3:16
The Fight Song 2:55
Disposable Teens 3:01

D: The Androgyne
Target Audience (Narcissus Narcosis) 4:18
President Dead 3:13
In the Shadow of the Valley of Death 4:09
Cruci-Fiction in Space 4:56
A Place in the Dirt 3:37

A: Of Red Earth
The Nobodies 3:35
The Death Song 3:29
Lamb of God 4:39
Born Again 3:20
Burning Flag 3:21

M: The Fallen
Coma Black: a. Eden Eye b. The Apple of Discord 5:58
Valentine's Day 3:31
The Fall of Adam 2:34
King Kill 33º 2:18
Count to Six and Die (The Vacuum of Infinite Space Encompassing) 3:24

Line-up: Marilyn Manson, John 5, Twiggy Ramirez, Madonna Wayne Gacy, Ginger Fish

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