359: MARILYN MANSON

I put an irrational amount of thought into who I’d be posting about today. Should it be something ‘Christmas-y’? What does that even mean? Should it at lease be something joyful? I don’t know.

You know what, fuck it. It’s the God of Fuck.

I preface this post by again mentioning separating art and artist. Manson’s been in the media quite a bit for reasons other than his music, but today I just want to talk about the artistic output and pop cultural meteor strike that is/was Marilyn Manson.

There was a point in the late 90s/early 00s where Marilyn Manson was the most notorious rockstar on the planet. He was unstoppable, and he was our parents’ worst nightmare. The mythos that surrounded the man was like the opposite of a cult of personality – utterly ridiculous anectodes exchanged between pearl-clutchers, without a second thought given to their implausability. (What doctor is removing a man’s rib simply so he commit autofellatio?)

But while the performance-art-level shock tactics Manson employed are notable – and they most definitely are notable, and could be seen as the work of a self-marketing genius – I want set that aside for a moment. Because there’s something that, comparatively, didn’t get as focus as it deserved – Marilyn Manson, both the man and the band, are extremely talented songwriters and musicians.

The sounds and genres the band effortlessly work with change from album to album, and combine everything from industrial metal and rock to alt metal, glam metal, hard rock, blues rock… all handled without fault. Every Manson album has a distinct character, and the difference sound is central to that.

It could be ‘Portrait of an American Family’ with its raw, punk-like aggression, ‘Antichrist Superstar’ with its hyper-produced, dark industrial sound, ‘Mechanical Animals’ glam rock odyssey, ‘Pale Emperor’ taking a hard left turn into blues rock, or ‘We Are Chaos’ going all in on gothic post punk – it’s all cohesive and a complete concept. The permanent through-line however is the man himself.

Manson’s vocals are immediately recognisable, comfortably shifting from sinister groans, to frantic screams, and hard rock roars. Manson readily switches up his vocal approach to suit the style of the music, but he is always 100% Manson.

It also needs to be said – Marilyn Manson is one of the most ingenious lyric writers in rock. This is especially apparent in his ‘Triptych’ – the three album concept played out via ‘Antichrist Svperstar’, ‘Mechanical Animals’, and ‘Hollywood’. Not only was Manson able to demonstrate his ability at turning a phrase, but the broader concepts and parallel metaphors presented, especially in these three albums, is truly a work of artistic and conceptual genius.

With these three albums, Marilyn Manson gave us a multilayered story told in reverse dealing with a corruption of politics, celebrity, and finally religion. The most incredible thing to me about this period in Manson’s output was how unique it was for the audience and period.

As a teenage Manson fan during that period, I think I can confidently say we weren’t listening to anything else as cerebral as what Manson was doing. In an age of nu metal and grunge, Marilyn Manson was producing concept albums for an audience unprepared.

For over 20 years Marilyn Manson, backed by constantly-changing roster of band mates, has continued to both reinvent himself and remind us all that he is, indeed, Marilyn fucking Manson.