Marilyn Manson's new release, a true triumph with strong, resonating indictments of American life, has- Oh wait, no. No, that review is from ten years ago.
After the somewhat somber Eat Me Drink Me, Manson seems determined to prove that he's still "got it," and comes out swinging with a good combination of eclecticism and heaviness. The musical aspect is for the most part adequate, but The High End of Low is an absolute disaster lyrically, and it's really not going to prove anything to anyone other than the lemming fanboys and fangirls who are guaranteed to buy (or at least download) the new disc.
This is what a forum fan had to say in the album's defense, I'm not even making this up: "I don't think it's shit album at all, it's just different from his previous albums.sounds mature to me." After this bullet-proof defense, I thought perhaps I had been too harsh in my words, so I gave it another spin. Believe it or not, I saw some of what he was talking about as far as maturity went. Here are some of the lyrics in particular that caught me:
"It's arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon! Fuck! Eat! Kill! Now do it again!"
"We're from America, we're from America, where they let you cum on their faces"
"Wow, wow, wow, w-w-w-w-w-w-w-wow"
...okay, I'm sorry. That's enough smugness for one review.
The first flicker in faith of Manson's brilliance came with a chorus that started with the question, "Are you motherfuckin' ready for the new shit?" Profanity had always been a part of his music, but never the forefront. It was seeming to become more than just a device, and on his seventh effort, with song titles like Arma-Goddamn-Motherfuckin-Geddon, it's clear by now that it's just a crutch. Even past the ridiculous title, which though he says is deliberately subversive it sounds more postured than anything, the music itself is neutered, watered down, Manson-by-the-numbers. You can almost see him checking off his list, "Excessive cursing? Check. Challenges to American society? Check. Asserting superiority over said society? Check. Dark industrial sound? Check. This is GOLD."
Not to mention that lines like "I've got a blackened soul, morals in a hole, wish I was so dead" recall Antichrist Superstar's Mister Superstar, and not in a good way. He's become the character he once so venomously mocked, the washed up superstar who was muttering "I wish I was dead" in the background. He's never sounded more out of ideas; lines like "Forbidden in Heaven and useless in Hell" from Four Rusted Horses sound like throwaway one-liners from his late nineties heyday. Even when they do work, such as on Running to the End of the World, they're ruined by the chorus' painful reminder of Manson's flat refusal to even attempt singing, and a running time about three minutes too long. I Want to Kill You Like They Do in the Movies, another joke of a title, simply meanders and goes nowhere. FOR NINE MINUTES.
Every time I listened to this, every uninspired line, every anemic hook, every wasted half-decent idea, all I could think was, "This is the Manson I remember?" Where is the cold, biting brilliance of Antichrist Superstar or Mechanical Animals? The raging fist-pumping anthems of Holy Wood? Hell, even The Golden Age of Grotesque and Eat Me Drink Me tried genuine (and mostly successful) tweaks with Manson's industrial sound; here he's just out of ideas and repeating himself. While on occasion, the music itself is strong enough to carry the song, the lyrics, which frankly could have been retrieved from a Marilyn Manson Mad Libs session, render it bland and devoid of impact; the only crowd this is going to appeal to are the frustrated high school kids who just want to hear someone assure them that their culture sucks, with a "fuck" and a "shit" thrown in for good measure. Even if his creativity is still in tact, The High End of Low sees him simply putting out another album, as opposed to progressing as an artist and making a statement. He was truly pushing himself all throughout his triptych of Antichrist, Mechanical, and Holy Wood, and now he's resorted to pandering to the generic Manson fan.