Marilyn Manson is one of those rare figures in music who truly deserves the term “artist”. Since 1995’s platinum-certified Antichrist Superstar, Marilyn Manson – the man, and the band- have had great success creating dark and imaginative concept albums that seamlessly blended music and imagery into one cohesive whole.
Born Villain is the title of the new album and it is as fitting a title as Manson has ever had for an album or even himself for that matter, having always identified with the anti-hero in movies and books. Manson has always taken the antagonistic approach to get his point across and it’s worked for him –as long as he didn’t get too personal. His previous two albums Eat Me Drink Me and The High End of Low were neither commercially successful nor fan-favorites, having focused more on conveying his feelings to others rather than just speaking his mind or concentrating on the music without caring what others thought. Manson has stated that on these previous albums “I was trying to make people feel what I was feeling—which wasn’t a good idea, especially because I was feeling like shit. Check mark number one: don’t do that. Don’t make records that make people feel bad.”
Starting with Eat Me Drink Me Marilyn Manson has become less of a five-piece band and more of a one-man show, mostly thanks to the departure of many key members, especially guitarist John 5. Marilyn Manson himself is extremely talented, and once had the added benefit of having equally talented musicians at his side, which has now been whittled down to a new crew with only Twiggy Ramirez (an original member) left with him.
Born Villain is a joy to listen to, particularly in those moments where you can hear the influence from past albums. This album has a punchiness to it that gives me confidence that Manson is returning to form even if the entire album isn’t a masterpiece. The album begins on a high note with “Hey Cruel World…,” intentionally misleading you into thinking you’re about to hear another dreary slow-churned intro before turning into a sped-up punkish anthem. It’s followed by the album’s first single “No Reflection” which is easily enjoyable for its steady beat and rhythm but isn’t anything too memorable. “Slo-mo-tion,” “The Gardener,” and “The Flowers of Evil” make up a nice act which contrasts really well with the rest of the album. There are some nice changes vocally and musically, starting with the slow but catchy dirge of “Slo-mo-tion” leading into a steady and almost upbeat melody offset by Manson reciting the lyrics as if they were poetry for most of “The Gardener,” which I thought was a fun break. Rounding these out is the almost poppy (for Manson) “The Flowers of Evil,” which has the kind of chorus in it that you could easily imagine a new-wave band borrowing from.
Out of the fourteen tracks, two-thirds of them are solid and at that fraction should be considered an easy purchase for fans. A few songs here and there wore out their replay value after a few listens but the final three from the album (not counting the bonus) again make a great set. Listening to the brash “Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day,” the gloomy blues of “Born Villain,” and the doom-laden “Breaking the Same Old Ground” it’s hard not to wonder what they might be like in the context of a greater concept-driven album. They actually feel like they could easily be outtakes from Antichrist Superstar and that gives us hope.
Many longtime fans are probably on the fence as far as buying Born Villain or not. While it doesn’t achieve the same heights of past glories, it does offer some hints that he could be back on the right path. Try not to judge the quality of the music to the scope of his other albums and you will be pleasantly surprised.
It’s also worth mentioning that the bonus cover of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” is not only perfectly tongue-in-cheek for Manson and guest guitarist Johnny Depp, but it’s also a simplistically cool rock song to top off the album.
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