There was a time when you couldn’t find a bigger Marilyn Manson fan than me. Or at least that’s what I used to tell myself. Like most of the world, I first discovered the band when “The Beautiful People” (from Antichrist Superstar) inundated the airwaves, and I immediately became hooked. After managing to get a hold of their first two albums (the fantastic Portrait of an American Family and the bizarre Smells Like Children), I tracked down as many singles as I could, and even got a hold of his autobiography (even though, at the time, I didn’t speak nearly enough English to be able to read it). I was having a hard time dealing with my dad’s cancer, and the music gave me an outlet through which to express what I was feeling. And since a lot of what I felt was rage, Marilyn Manson seemed to provide the perfect soundtrack.
A large part of Manson‘s shtick was to serve as a dark and twisted reflection of American society. As politicians went after him, Manson reveled on his role as a pariah, and exploited it to his advantage. Few things are as enticing as what’s forbidden, and Marilyn Manson quickly captivated the imaginations of many, becoming one of the world’s most famous celebrities. The fascination that mainstream media had with him turned him into a household name, and eventually dulled all of his edges. In a way, he became the kind of thing that he hated so much in American culture, the vacuous and pretentious celebrity surrounded by sycophants, and who starts to believe his own bullshit. We Are Chaos, Manson‘s latest album, exemplifies this perfectly.
The last time I saw Manson live, he seemed high as a kite, and unable to remember the lyrics to most of his songs. That is exactly what we get from We Are Chaos. From his drugged up, pseudo-intellectual monologue at the beginning of “Red, Black and Blue”, to the terrible heroin-infused ballads (!) “Paint You With My Love” and “Broken Needle”, this really is Manson at his lowest. There’s hardly any edge or aggression in the music (“Red, Black and Blue” being the only exception), with the album being instead devoted to desperately (and fruitlessly) aping David Bowie. It’s a boring album, no matter how you look at it. Sure, some of the lyrics showcase some of Manson‘s old edge, but it’s all dulled, covered in such a thick patina of pretentiousness and acceptability, that it’s really hard to appreciate.
Since the album has been well-received by professional critics, I understand that I am in the minority in my disdain for this album. But maybe that’s a good thing. I know what Manson used to be, before he became a dear of hipster journalists trying to seem edgy, and I know what’s been lost along the way. They are more than welcome to celebrate what he has become, because they truly don’t know what he used to be.