Marilyn Manson – ‘Born Villain’

An album that’s, y’know, fine

Some things to know about the eighth Marilyn Manson album: it is the first on his own label, ‘Hell, etc’; trailing it is a short film, directed by Shia LaBeouf, which features weird-looking people getting their hair shorn off, topless acrobats, midgets with no legs being stroked by busty hookers, an old man having a gun put in his mouth by Manson, and Manson reciting lines from Macbeth (“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”); to make the album, he ditched the grandeur of the Hollywood Hills and went back to the squalor of the apartment where he made ‘Antichrist Superstar’, aiming for back-to-basics grit. So far, so return-to-form.

But Marilyn Manson’s problem has never been preamble. He’s an awesome shock-rock star on paper. In one recent interview, he said loads of things like, “I use girls as AIDS tests – if they start dying 18 months later, I think, ‘Oh shit, I’ve gotta worry!’” Mix quotes like this with a tracklist which features titles like ‘Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day’ and a lyric sheet that features lines such as “Don’t wanna hit you but the only thing between our love is a bloody nose, busted lip and a blackened eye” (from ‘Pistol Whipped’), and you’re at worst offended, at best hooked in, wanting to know more. Either way it’s a success for Marilyn Manson – in fact, it’s the POINT of Marilyn Manson.

But then comes the music. And as is often the case, it’s just… alright. Yeah, he definitely sounds more energised, and like he’s got his mojo back and revisited the records – in his words “Killing Joke, Joy Division, Revolting Cocks, Bauhaus, Birthday Party” – that inspired him in the first place. Yeah, opener ‘Hey, Cruel World…’ sets a tone of requisitely sleazy guitars and processed industrial beats, and yeah, “teenage rape” gets a seemingly obligatory mention (during ‘Slo-Mo-Tion’). And yeah, at the end of the record, he lobs in another semi-comedy cover – this time of Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’ – with Johnny Depp on guitar.

Again, this all sounds good, right? Right. The truth is, though, there’s just a lack of magic, a lack of something special going on. It’s not bad. It’s not good. It’s just… Well, look, the thing is, for a guy whose whole raison d’etre is ‘American Psycho’-esque dark comedy/shock horror, getting shrugs and six out of 10 – defined at the start of this section as “better than average” – is not really what it’s all about. It should be zeroes and tens. But musically, it just ain’t.

Hamish MacBain