Marilyn Manson – Born Villain (2012)

Posted: May 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

Love is a mysterious enigma. One that many would do anything for, and often times can’t live without. Having it can fulfill one’s life, yet the lack of it can tear your soul apart piece by piece. Just ask Marilyn Manson

As the resident weirdo of modern industrial rock, Manson built a career on the shocking, the perverse and the disturbed. The music was so good that many looked past his anti-religious themes and over-the-top antics and embraced the artist despite the controversies he seemed to create for himself.

But the oddity that is Marilyn Manson wasn’t saved for just his music. A head-scratching, short-lived relationship with actress Rose McGowan, as well as a failed marriage with fellow freak Dita Von Teese all took place while Manson was at the peak of his popularity, and it seemed that even while in love, he could continue to pull off the magic trick of staying strange while still selling records. But love is a fickle demon, and after divorcing Von Teese he found himself arm in arm with Evan Racheal Wood – which turned the master into the puppet. Not only did the succubus find herself the topic of every tabloid magazine out there (it is rumoured that Manson and Wood’s infidelity were the cause of his divorce), but she found a way to pull the imagination and spirit out of rock’s most imaginative performers. You don’t have to look any further than Manson’s last two albums (Eat Me, Drink Me and The High End Of Low) for proof that the inspiration had taken back seat to his personal life. Even the lyrical content of those albums sang to the emotional torment Manson was enduring from the whole “love” thing – and the critics and fans alike walked away in drones.

So here we are three years later, and Marilyn Manson is back with his ninth studio album – Born Villain. I wasn’t sure I could handle another album of “Dear Diary” bullshit, but the fact remains that he IS who he is, and maybe – just maybe – we would catch a song or two that would again remind us of the twisted excellence that Manson once shoved down our throat on a regular basis.

Apparently Manson has snapped out of his bleeding heart phase. If he ever needed to remember who he was, it was now – and Manson (as well as newly reunited guitarist Twiggy Ramirez) has emerged out of the darkness of emotions and stepped back in to the more familiar darkness of evil. And it’s about fucking time.

Opening the album is “Hey Cruel World.” I knew the first track was going to be hard and forceful, but all the while worried that we were getting dessert first – and the rest of the meal wasn’t going to be nearly as tasty. But as the track progressed, I realized that there was no way he would lead in with a song of this magnitude unless he was extremely confident that the rest of the album was going to hold up. And that’s what has been missing from Manson for a long time – confidence.

That attitude spills over into the disc’s first single “No Reflection,” a catchy reminder that Manson can still write great songs. The lyrics are a bit confusing (which I haven’t been able to put my finger on after at least twenty listens), but musically the track knows exactly where it is going throughout. Manson hasn’t necessarily been a “hit machine” over the years, but this one has charts written all over it.

“Pistol Whipped” is the first song that hints at relationships here, but it takes a completely different persona than in the past. The song is obviously about physically abusing a girl – which is something I neither condone nor support – but if anything shows that Manson is back to sharpening his teeth and getting back to being the controversy he thrives on, it’s here. It’s a bit slower than the first two tracks, but somehow takes the brutality of the subject matter and twists it into a sexy, perverse thrill ride.

The opening quote in “Overneath The Path Of Misery” sounds like Manson getting extremely personal, but for those of you with literary knowledge, you will recognize the quote from Shakespeare. In fact, the whole song plays out as a William vs. Marilyn showdown of Macbethian proportions, with allusions to Greek mythology thrown in for good measure. You need not be a historian to get into the track, though, as it teems of signature Manson. He may be the only artist out there that has us tapping our feet and banging our heads to lyrics of rape, murder and evil – but that’s what makes him special.

There is a minimalist approach to the aptly-titled “Slo-Mo-Tion.” It lacks in tempo and clarity, but the fuzzy, disorienting feel is perfectly placed here. It’s less a punch in the face than previous tracks, but the drip of the chinese water torture burns a hole in your head. “This is my beautiful show,” proclaims Manson, and while it’s far from beautiful, it is definitely profound.

When Manson gets down to business with his mind and lyrics, good things usually happen – and they happen times ten in “The Gardener.” The track tells the tale of the illusions we create of people we don’t even know, and then expect them to live up to those standards. Could that be a better painting of Manson himself? Twiggy shines here (as he has through most of the album) and it really seems like the two are back in synch for the first time in a long while.

There had to be a weak point coming soon, and that takes place with “Flowers Of Evil.” It starts with a good half minute of just static and noise – which was probably supposed to build the sinister vibe, but it just didn’t give me the same goosebumps as other attempts by Manson to be “spooky.” The fact that it is the weakest link in the chain on Born Villain is one thing, the fact that is still better than anything off of the last album says something, too.

“Disengaged” is a depressive track that also didn’t have the focus of previous tracks, but what I liked about it was that even though it didn’t really know where it was going, it kicked and screamed all the way. It felt like the panic and chaos one would experience being blindfolded, bound and gagged and stuffed into the trunk of a car – where you don’t know where you are going but fully understand the end result is going to be terrifying. It’s heavy on deep keyboard notes and darkness, and it works well to mix things up.

In an album filled with memorable choruses and catchy hooks, “Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms” is almost more of a review of everything good so far in the album. It doesn’t stand out on it’s own, doesn’t come across as anything too dangerous, and gets caught up in continuing the experience more than adding to it. It does its job of keeping the pace up, but you can’t help but feel like you’ve heard this track already somewhere.

For those that have only experienced Marilyn Manson through the speakers at Hot Topic, “Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day” probably comes off as sounding like every other Marilyn Manson song, but such is not the case. In fact, it’s one of the few “signature” sounding songs of the lot, filled with the industrial-fueled madness that made Manson the icon he is. Yes, it has the angst and fury that is easy to associate with MM’s enigmatic personality – crucnhy guitars and all – but the fact that the end of the song has a humorous take shows that even Marilyn himself can laugh at the misconceptions.

Title tracks are usually the hit-or-miss factor of most albums, and here it teeters between both extremes. The effort is so broken and disjointed at times it almost makes you feel uneasy, and that was the point. It has moments of anger, episodes of morose, yet hits melodic points along the way. If anyone could be more weird than Manson, it would have to be Manson himself, and that’s the perfect explanation of this track.

“Breaking The Same Old Ground” opens with the all-too-familiar music box creepiness, but shifts gears almost immediately from something gothic to something extremely personal. It feels oddly romantic and absolutely pathetic at the same time. Manson shows his humanity here, tossing aside his confidence for a moment of self-loathing and despair. It’s a death march of the forlorn, showing that Manson maybe hasn’t broke free from all his demons just yet – but the powerful rise of music and self-worth strengthen the track at the end showing that despite being fragile, Manson is up for the challenge.

I usually save the bonus tracks for a surprise for the consumer, but it has to be mentioned here. Manson teams up with Johnny Depp on guitar (yes, THAT Johnny Depp) for a dank rendition of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” Outside of the strangeness of the collaboration, the song is interesting and amusing. I will say that when Depp joined Manson on stage at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards show last month, it pretty much saved a telecast that was drowning in a pool of its own vomit.

The final words on Born Villain is that – yes – we get back the Manson we all grew up with. It’s easily his best album in ten years, and finally cuts him free from the puppeteer’s web of strings. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, but for now we at least have an album of new, exciting material from one of the most interesting, vivacious artists of our generation. Some times the villain does win…

9/10

Tracklist:
01 – Hey, Cruel World.
02 – No Reflection
03 – Pistol Whipped
04 – Overneath the Path of Misery
05 – Slo-Mo-Tion
06 – The Gardner
07 – Flowers Of Evil
08 – Children Of Chain
09 – Disengaged
10 – Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms
11 – Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day
12 – Born Villain
13 – Breaking the Same Old Ground
14 – You’re So Vain (featuring Johnny Depp)

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