Essential Review: Marilyn Manson – Mechanical Animals (1998)

Marilyn Manson is one of the most frequently misunderstood music artists in recent history. At his most poignant, both critics and fans bought into the outrage culture he both fabricated and fed off to continue his blatantly provocative shitshow. While his debut into the mainstream, “Antichrist Superstar”, terrified Christian mums everywhere and 2001’s “Holy Wood” saw him take an admirably rebellious stance in the wake of the Columbine controversy, “Mechanical Animals”, the album bridging the two, is perhaps his most overlooked and underappreciated work. It would have been easy for Manson to release Antichrist 2.0, continuing the grimy Industrial Metal sound that sent his legions of teen fans into frenzy two years earlier. Instead Manson opted to lift David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust concept to create an Industrial Glam-Rock masterwork that brilliantly highlights the vapid and hollow lifestyle of America’s high-rollers. Manson shifted his crosshairs away from religion and conservatism and aimed it squarely at the cocaine-addled hypocrisy of mainstream culture. Musically the meat and bones of the album is more slow and contemplative than one would expect with tracks like the spacey opener “Great Big White World” and the drudging “Disassociative” characterised by restrained verses building into explosive choruses. Of course there are still plenty of more straight-up rock songs which enjoy the benefits of the band’s shameless arena focus. Take the single “I Don’t Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)” which stands as one of Manson’s weirdest songs to date with its funky bass lines and Gospel choir outro. The closer “Coma White” might be the best song on the album though, perfectly encapsulating the emptiness of drug addiction and the isolation of depression through layers of distorted guitars. As much as Manson would love you to believe he is the Devil incarnate he presents himself to be, the reality is he is the demented reflection of outsider culture and with Mechanical Animals he tried to show the world the void of celebrity culture he would eventually fall victim to.  

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