Is there still a place for Marilyn Manson in the world of heavy metal, circa 2011? Hugh Platt still seems to think so – or at least he thinks there might be if Manson doesn’t keep screwing up.
30 January 2001 - ladies and gentlemen, that was the date that Marilyn Manson began his slow but steady descent to the career-low at which he finds himself today. And terrible crime did Manson commit on that date that so marked his fate? Well, that was when Manson joined Eminem onstage in Germany during Eminem’s song ‘The Way I Am’ for the first (and not for the last) time. Doesn’t seem like much, does it?
Well, since then he’s gradually become ridiculed for his substandard live performances, humiliated by internet-guffawing at his drunken and demented press appearances, and cut adrift by his long-term record label following lackluster album sales. That Eminem collaboration wasn’t the cause of this though – it was merely the first warning sign of things to come.
But why was this the moment that set Manson down this tragic path? In 2011, can Manson ever the position of power he once held in the rock community, or is he permanently tarnished? We’re here to tell Mr. Manson that it doesn’t have to be this way anymore. C’mon, Brian, let us fix you.
The 6 Things Marilyn Manson needs to do in 2011 to save his career
1. Stop with the extra-curricular activities.
Does Manson remember why he became popular? It was because he was a rockstar. A living, breathing, smart-mouthed rockstar. It wasn’t because he was a shitty painter. It wasn’t because he was an absinthe distiller. It wasn’t because he was a (failed) movie director. It wasn’t because he dicked around with Tim & Eric. It wasn’t because he guested as a judge on Austrian talent shows. It wasn’t because he appeared as a “guest star” in shitty promo videos for Bruneian pop stars. It certainly wasn’t because he competed with Clive Owen, Gary Oldman, and James freakin’ Brown to see who could mug the camera the most during a 10 minute-long BMW commercial.
So, Manson, trim the fat. Ditch all that superfluous bullshit, and go back to being a rockstar again. We know why Manson decided to do those Eminem appearances (including that one you did at Reading Festival) – Eminem had stolen away his title of America’s Most Demonised Badboy, and he figured that if Marshall Mathers was going to namecheck you in a song, then he might as well get some of the glory too, right? That’s the attitude that had him write the lyric “Fuck making hits, I’m taking credit for the death toll” on ‘Arma-Goddamn-Motherfuckin-Geddon’, wasn’t it? He’s reduced himself to screaming LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! I AM IMPORTANT!, when previously he didn’t have to beg for attention – he got it regardless, simply for being Marilyn Manson.
2. Keep the fuck off Twitter.
Contrary to popular wisdom, engaging directly with his audience would be one of the worst possible moves for him at this stage. One of Manson’ attributes was that in an age of metal bands that wore baggy jeans and could talk about Eastenders in interviews, was that he was a full-on rockstar. His existence outside the reach of his audience was a crucial factor in building his mystique, and concurrently, his popularity. I don’t want to see him fucking RT’ing some half-assed observation about the weather in Los Angeles, or twitpic’ing some cameraphone snap of what he had for lunch. Manson works best when he’s not available – he needs to return to that.
But you know what this doesn’t mean? It doesn’t mean he has to post all those ridiculous pseudo-intellectual blogs that he likes to publish every now and again. Not only is the sporadic nature of them frustratingly half-arsed, but his sad little sixth-form level missives just paint him as an art-brat that never grew up. Drop that business ASAP.
3. Recognise that your “old tricks” will no longer work.
Although the Born Villain video really shows Marilyn Manson simply isn’t equipped to operate effectively in 2011, it was actually back in May 2007 that Manson first revealed his ineptitude at courting controversy in the age of the internet. The video for ’Heart-Shaped Glasses (When The Heart Guides The Hand)’ famously featured footage of what was – allegedly – Manson and his girlfriend, Evan Rachel Wood, actually having sex as opposed to merely simulating it for benefit of the camera.
Newsflash: this was four years after Paris Hilton’s sextape “leaked” onto the internet. Hell, it was twelve years after Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson’s sextape “leaked”. Watch celebrities have sex is no longer shocking. It’s not even titillating. It’s just a bit gross. Right now you are one Google-search away from every kind of porn imaginable. That it’s Marilyn Manson’s dick doing the fucking, well, if that floats your boat…but for the rest of us, it leaves us shrugging and saying, “so what?”
A few years later, obviously pissed at the flat reception The High End of Low was receiving, Manson released the video to ‘Running to the Edge of the World’, featuring his increasingly desperate attempts to stir up controversy by resorting to glamourising sexual violence (fast-forward to the end of the video if you can’t be bothered to watch Manson gurn through a veil for five minutes). The world at large saw the clip for what it was – a man unable to operate beyond the shock-doctrine that he’d seen himself as the master of for so long – and greeted the video with the deafening silence it deserved.
Manson’s career has undeniably been built on a bedrock of shock – from his band’s early antics of hanging piñatas filled with rotting meat above the mosh pit in dingy Florida nightclubs, to his willingness to wink and slap his arse at any Christian fundamentalist with a placard and penchant for sloganeering, poking the sacred bollocks of his antagonists has always been a keystone to the Manson modus operandi. But in a world where Rotton.com, Goatse, 2Girls1Cup, and all manner of internet obscenities are never more than two clicks of a hyperlink away, for him to keep pull such obvious tricks now just seems so….pedestrian. And that’s where the Born Villain video fails too – Manson and his current collaborator, Shia LaBoeuf, have crammed it so full of supposedly “shocking” imagery that they haven’t stopped to realise that this nonsense simply doesn’t mean anything anymore.
So what does Manson need to do, now his old tricks don’t work? Well….Manson needs to stop being juvenile. He needs to get back to being “the smartest guy in the room” of which Trent Reznor lamented his turning away from and into “a dopey clown”. Where has the Marilyn Manson that was the articulate heart of Bowling For Columbine gone? Bring him back.
4. Stop being a massive drunken, drugged-up, pie-eating dickhead, and heed your own advice.
In Manson’s excellent 1998 autobiography, The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell, Manson reflects on the subject of addiction at two key points in his band’s history. The first of these is at the start of the career, when the band’s then-bass player, Brad Stewart, overdosed on heroin, prompting Manson to declare “I couldn’t (and still can’t) tolerate someone who’s a fucking weakling living out of a spoon and a needle”. He later reflects – after suffering an overdose of his own during the recording sessions for Antichrist Superstar - of how he “managed to convince [himself] that [he] was not Brad Stewart, that [he] was still in control: this overdose would not be an epiphany or a wake-up call to straighten up. It was simply a mistake.” Back in 1996, Manson’s ideological position on the subject of addiction was clear, even if his practices fell short.
Fast forward to 2009 – he’s squawking about in fancy hotel rooms, drinking absinthe and making a tit of himself. He’s turning up at the BBC gacked up to the tits and talking even more bollocks. Manson’s alcoholism – cited by Dita von Teese as one of the major causes of the break-up of the marriage – was even held up by some critics as a reason why his live performances around this time were so much bobbins. To lift another quite from The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell, Manson once said, “I make no secret of my drug use. But at the same time I have nothing but contempt for anyone who is addicted to drugs” Can Manson still say that with a straight face?
But it’s not just with regards to drink and drugs that Manson’s been ignoring his own past advice. Going by what we’ve seen on his Born Villain video, Manson has discovered his inner thespian again, mindlessly regurgitating Shakespeare in between snippets of his new music. Need we remind you, Mr. Warner, that you formed a band so you could stop reading poetry? Granted, Shakespeare is a step up from ‘The Telephone’ and the other awful prose from his past that he sneered at during The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell, but that’s still no excuse to wallow in Shakespeare now he’s “made it”. The clumsy, self-aggrandising quotations from Macbeth in LaBeouf’s Born Villain video just shows him up as another musician who secretly wishes he could be an actor too. Get back to the matter at hand – that of being a motherfucking rockstar.
5. Remember what made your “classic” albums….classic.
Okay. Here we are. The Big One. What made Manson’s triumvirate of Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals, and Holy Wood work so well? All three of these records – musically, lyrically, and aesthetically – were unified around solid, identifiable, powerful concepts. That’s why the piss all over everything he’s done since.
Now I know some of you are probably thinking “but The Golden Age Of Grotesque had a concept!” Well, you’re partially right, but you’re also very, very wrong. It had – at best – half a concept. Sure, it had an over-abundance of visual and aesthetic ideas that filled the album, but musically and lyrically it was a divided beast. Occasionally it would allow this theme to seep through to the songs musically or lyrically – the title track, ‘Doll-Dagga Buzz-Buzz Ziggety-Zag’, and even ‘Vodevil’, manage this – but for the most part it was chop’n’change Manson-by numbers.
Watch this and try to deny Manson had anything on the brain other than Dita von Teese:
But here’s the rub – the real nasty truth that Manson fans shy away from confronting: what if Manson doesn’t have the necessary inspiration to do this? And even worse – what if he never had? Now hear me out – Manson has always latched on to succession of external muses to provide him with inspiration. If we go back through almost his entire career, we can plot it out. Only Portrait of an American Family - the record most overlooked by Manson aficionados – can truly claim to dodge this accusation with the fewest wounds. Sure, there were Manson’s early obsessions with Willy Wonker, Charles Manson, and all the thickset anti-TVangelism vibes, but these obsessions came from him. This was his first real release – it was the one he’d had his whole life to write up till that point. Likewise Smells Like Children sidesteps this problem, exists as a halfway-house record between Portrait and what would follow.
Manson’s real enthrallment to his muses comes with Antichrist Superstar. Here Manson was well and truly under the spell of two men – Anton Szandor LaVey and Trent Reznor. To this day, Manson fans fill up internet messageboards urging their musical hero to reunite with Reznor, as if a mere meeting of minds between the two could replicate the success of this record. The sad fact of the matter is though that those days are long past – for both Manson and Reznor. Not only have they both moved on musically – Reznor especially, from his Downward Spiral days – but those “dopey clown” statements made by Reznor put paid to this partnership, once and for all. A re-unification of this team now would merely result in a disappointing mess. And as for LaVey…well…he’s dead.
Mechanical Animals was Manson’s Hollywood glitz album – it was the one that saw him cemented as part of American pop culture, rather than as some frightful bogeyman character living outside it. He appeared on MTV Award show skits, got parodied in South Park, and was rendered safe. It’s little wonder that during the period he was most concerned with the trappings of celebrity, it was Bowie’s celebrated superstar alien, Ziggy Stardust, and Manson’s then-beau, the enfant terrible of the red carpet, Rose McGowan, whom he held in such high stead during this period.
Everyone and anyone started taking the piss out of Manson in ’98:
Despite the obvious external influence of the Columbine High School shootings, Holy Wood dodges this curse somewhat. It is by far the most collaborative record in the Marilyn Manson discography, with more band members sharing songwriting credits here than on most of their previous records put together. As the final part of Manson’s trilogy of “classic” albums, it stands head and shoulders above what was to follow as one of Manson’s better works.
The Golden Age Of Grotesque was Manson firmly under the thumb of Dita von Teese and Tim Skold – and so transparently so, too. I doubt there was anyone who believed it was a co-incidence that Manson created a Weimar-ish exercise in tawdry vaudeville during the same period he was wooing (and subsequently, hooking up with) the world’s most famous burlesque performer. The thick-set, brutish stabs of industrial that peek out every now and again paint a clear roadmap to Skold, who leaves what’s left of this record irrevocably stained with his throwback Skinny Puppy gestures.
Eat Me, Drink Me saw Manson playing at being a shadowy uncle figure, with the spectre of his blossoming relationship with the barely-past-jailbait Evan Rachel Wood reducing it to a caricature of a toothless, pervy old man, lamenting over what he used to be capable of. The High End of Low, similarly, was a shallow reflection of the bitter spats of American introspection and occult bear-baiting that Manson had indulged in on Holy Wood and Antichrist Superstar. And just why was Manson feeling nostalgic for those times? Could it have had something to do with the return to the Manson-fold of his chief musical collaborator from that time, Twiggy Ramirez? Once again, Manson’s output seemed listless, self-referential to his own history, and lacking in any pointed barbs of its own. It was all second-hand outrage, all wrapped up in new artwork.
And now? Well, now he’s BFFs with Shia LaBeouf. Well……shit. Are we going to get a re-tread of Mechanical Animals-style musings on the nature of fame? Are we going to get an album made by a man so rapidly and crushingly aware on his ongoing obsolescence that he’s latched onto the latest Hollywood youngling in an effort to re-grasp the lost youth of both his fame and his audience? Maybe there is another muse – one yet unseen – that has provided him with renewed focus? We can but wait.
Obviously, with Born Villain already recorded, the public relations campaign already in motion, and a release date set for the first quarter of 2012, it is far too late for Manson to fix his forthcoming album if it is – as we fear – already broken. He’s got little choice but to ride it out now, and bear the consequences of whatever it is that’s he’s crafted. Who knows – maybe he has created a new record that is going to rejuvenate him for this new decade. Then again, the evidence suggests that he hasn’t, in which case….
6. When all else fails, tell the whole world “F**k you”
If he’s gonna fail, I’d like him to at least fail like the man who wrote and sang “I wasn’t born with enough middle-fingers” – not this limp clown of a figure that Manson in 2011 has become.
Hugh Platt holds relatively little hope that the new Marilyn Manson album will live up to those of a decade ago, but he lives in hope. Manson fans, please feel free to point out all the “stupid” mistakes he has made in the above article in the comments section down below. We’ll make extra-special effort not to ignore them this time around.