The era of Marilyn Manson seemed to have passed. His ultimate infamy was back in 1999 when supposed trenchcoat goths Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold massacred their chums at Columbine High School and the US media blamed it all on his baleful influence. And yet, 13 years later, here’s Marilyn with a new album, a vanity label and the Hey Cruel World tour.
Born Villain is Manson’s eighth studio album, a collaboration between Manson, Twiggy Ramirez and Chris Vrenna, and the vibe is one of a do-or-die effort to convince us something very important is afoot.
Manson has supposedly been artistically sequestered for the last few months, while dropping oblique, going-on-pretentious, media teaser hints concerning the record’s progress, as in, “Restriction creates the desire to have the necessity or the determination or confidence to deal with your situation. It’s like a zombie movie, it’s like being in prison, it’s being stuck with one choice, survival.” In these cynical times, the temptation is to suspect that a second-class product is receiving first-class hype to jump-start a fading career.
But to my delight as a closet Marilyn fan, Born Villain turns out to be little short of excellent. The emphasis is on bone-crunching rhythm, with a consummately nasty Manson production that builds on all the tricks he cooked up with Trent Reznor back in the day to replicate a very noisy alien invasion on songs such as Pistol Whipped and Murders Are Getting Prettier Every Day, and fever-dream distortion on Breaking The Same Old Ground.
Measurably more metallic than previous Manson, this is no Alice Cooper funhouse, but very close to a true rock’n’roll nightmare. Vocals are digitally juiced in extremis but the lyrics still cut through, although the line “The rape of Persephone was a marketing scheme” on Overneath The Path Of Misery straddles the fence of plausibility. Always a master of the inspired cover, Manson even tackles Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain with a sinister snarl that Carly could never have imagined.
In his pre-release promos, Manson sounded positively bored with his former self. “[Born Villain doesn’t] sound like any of my old records. In fact it sort of sounds like what I listened to before I made records: Killing Joke, Joy Division, Revolting Cocks, Bauhaus, Birthday Party.”
It does, only more so. He need be bored no more.