Sweet Nothing

It's a conversion on a par with St Paul's. No, Marilyn Manson, America's favourite bogeyman, hasn't quite recanted and taken to snacking on the Host ...

IT’S A CONVERSION ON A PAR WITH ST PAUL’S. No, Marilyn Manson, America’s favourite bogeyman, hasn’t quite recanted and taken to snacking on the Host. It’s worse than that. The come-hither cadaver whose ten-point plan to destroy America is working a treat, has made a fantastic pop record. With killer riffs and unimpeachable tunes. Hardcore fans should turn away now: this review contains disturbing scenes of a non-industrial nature.

It’s a fiendishly brilliant career move, worthy of the Serpent himself. Although Manson – the vengeful alter ego of Brian Warner, former Christian school misfit-turned-major social irritant – has always talked a terrific fight against the forces of God-fearing blandness, his band’s musical output perennially lagging behind his wit and ambition. Their previous turgid goth-metal output was more suited to alarming authority figures with brute force, than it was graced with the devil’s best tuneage.

But ‘Mechanical Animals’, MM album number four, marks a total shift in Manson’s assault. Where the ‘Antichrist Superstar’ game plan was about gaining notoriety through outrage, rather than winning souls over on musical grounds, ‘Mechanical Animals’ aims straight for the singalong heart of stadium-land. And rips it out, and holds it aloft in triumph.

So the sub-Nine Inch Nails sludgecore is dispensed with. Instead, ‘Mechanical Animals’ updates Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, dressing him in the shiny electronic rock raiments of Garbage, or ’98 vintage Smashing Pumpkins. It happens most jaw-droppingly on ‘I Don’t Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)’, a muscular glam stomp-along that isn’t unfamiliar with chunks of Bowie’s ‘Fame’. It happens again on ‘Rock Is Dead’, a fierce fist-in-the-air polemic that suggests Sigue Sigue Sputnik butchering T Rex. But it occurs most arrestingly on ‘Speed Of Pain’, where a chorus of vocoder aliens joins celestial-sounding gospel singers on backing vocals. So total is Manson’s Bowie makeover, that his [I]Rocky Horror[/I] ghoul look has even been ditched in favour of gender-bending spacemaaaan chic.

But for all Manson’s brazen hijacking of Bowie, and his bald co-option of Billy Corgan’s sound, ‘Mechanical Animals’ is more of a companion piece to the new Hole album. The two share a producer, Michael Beinhorn, who makes guitars sound like weapons of mass destruction, and many a hook-laden meditation on the excesses of fame. Like the all-conquering forthcoming single, ‘The Dope Show’, for instance, essentially Iggy Pop’s ‘Nightclubbing’ blown up to the size of a planet. Or ‘New Model’, in which our Brian – a music journalist before he turned coat – sneers, [I]”I’m spun/And I know that/I’m stoned and rolling”[/I]. A walking study in demonology? That’ll be Marilyn Manson, actually.

Of the 14 tracks here, ten could be singles. On this evidence alone, ‘Mechanical Animals’ is an unashamedly crass bid for total world domination. There’s a bit of flab here, sure, and Manson’s lyrics remain more cack-handed than his interview fluency would suggest, but this is Manson’s most dangerous record. Ever. The gamble is this: they already have the goth kids. The massed legions of metal are on side. They reckon they’ll keep them both, despite this record’s stadium thrust. Now, their sights have turned on everyone else.