Music News

Apocalypse Yesterday

Marilyn Manson's pissing match with God continues -- stop the presses! For a guy who's written almost as many suicide anthems as Barry Manilow (when's the last time you heard "It's a Miracle" and didn't want to bump yourself off?), yesterday's dog-eared nemesis -- still regarded as a "shock rocker" in the mainstream press -- has officially reached mid-career by pushing the same buttons he pushed five years ago.

You know -- back when people first grew bored of him.

For a while in 1996, Manson was a fresh face with a limited future in our sick cult of celebrity -- just the kind of fodder that industry bigwigs love to chew up and spit out at the world. The least interesting part of this phenomenon has always been the music, something that loses its esoteric value, even among the most ardent fans, when it goes platinum.

With the vaudevillian Alice Cooper -- a man who once claimed that he "single-handedly drove the stake through the heart of the love generation" -- out of the way, the Northwest grunge scene invited a similarly repellent saboteur to turn a few dastardly tricks in the early '90s. Young Brian Warner complied, mustering the misery that a suburban worm-boy requires to become the once and future Antichrist Superstar -- a metamorphosis carefully outlined in his biography The Long Hard Road Out of Hell.

Raised in Canton, Ohio, Warner suffered a wretched childhood that Freudians would have a field day dissecting. For misbehaving, his grandmother made him kneel on broomsticks anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour. His grandfather collected dildos, wore women's wigs and underwear and played with model trains. The private Christian school Warner attended taught St. John the Divine's visions in Revelation as indisputable fact, in addition to preaching the evils of sex, UPC codes and the blasphemies found through playing Led Zeppelin and Queen albums backward. He was bullied by jocks (sound familiar?) and rejected by girls. After his family relocated to Florida in the early '80s, Warner fell headlong into his chosen field -- that is, disconnecting from his senses through drugs, industrial rock and the occult while becoming obscenely wealthy and notoriously famous. Hail Satan -- and tons of dumb luck.

Okay, so it's not exactly Horatio Alger, but with help from Nothing label head Trent Reznor (who's made a career of aping Ministry), Manson and his band of serial-killing starlets issued two desperately lame albums -- Portrait of an American Family in 1994 and Smells Like Children in 1995 -- before their depravity-loving gimmick finally caught on with a tedious cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams." Some of them really do want to be abused.

Antichrist Superstar sealed the deal in 1996, making Manson internationally recognizable. But alas, fame's hollow caress reduced him to a mannequin-crotched, androgynous extraterrestrial two years later on Mechanical Animals -- a synth-pop departure (and utter commercial flop) in the spirit of Gary Numan.

On Holy Wood, this latest rageaholic's requiem, Manson once again targets -- get ready for this, America -- organized religion! And while Denver's hospitality committee rings up Mayberry for a noose (their outcry might as well be the sound of a cash register), Manson returns with his latest batch of Christian-baiting racket, bustin' moves even the scariest thespian in Hell House would envy. Ka-ching!

Diehard Spooky Kids, however, will likely pass down this dreary heirloom from Brian with a shrug. They'll recall his salad days covering Annie Lennox on MTV, smile over those boycotts at Wal-Mart and Best Buy and tell their wide-eyed younguns: "Yep, I remember the early mosh-pit days in Lauderdale. Ol' Marilyn would fill up a piñata with animal entrails and spoiled meat, throw a stick to the crowd and say, 'Please, don't break this open! I beg of you!' And, man, how we'd par-tay!"

In some far-reaching twist on the Book of Genesis, Manson now teases young and old alike with a maggoty take on the Fall of Man. He's a busy little name-dropper, too, referencing JFK, Lincoln, Oswald, Booth, Lennon, Chapman (see a theme developing here?), Shakespeare and even Aldous Huxley into some kind of conceptual four-part-trilogy/Ouija-board-opus thing. There's a distinct bent for evolution, bullets and revisionist history all neatly vacuum-sealed with Tarot-influenced artwork that is certifiably icky. And guess what? Manson contends that the crucifixion is a violent image! Really goin' out on a limb, Bri-guy!

Typically whining about the trappings of his self-made fame ("Target Audience," "Lamb of God"), Manson bellyaches about life's futility more than a pint-sized Neitzsche with gas pains ("Godeatgod," "President Dead," "Disposable Teens," "Coma Black"). He lifts ancient text from the "no future" school of Johnny Rotten ("The Death Song") and -- steaming clots of gastric heave! -- churns through enough indigestible dirge metal to choke a goat. (Note to Blur: Look into suing ol' goofy-eyes for swiping that riff from "Song #2" on his rabble-rousing "The Fight Song." Ka-ching!)

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John La Briola