Music

Nothing New

The Relevancy of Marilyn Manson

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THINGS HAVE CHANGED a lot since 1996. There were no devices in our pockets connecting us to all information and all people at all times. MTV still played music videos. And perhaps most quaintly, a rock album like Marilyn Manson's Antichrist Superstar was considered by some to be a serious threat to the moral standings of society.

Through some inventive shock tactics and old-fashioned theatricality, Marilyn Manson sent concerned parents and Christians running to the picket lines, in some cases even crying censorship to their congressmen. Considering the fact that Manson—one Brian Hugh Warner—proved himself to be an extremely intelligent individual, it's obvious that was his plan all along, naming himself after two 20th-century American icons: its most famous sex symbol, and its most notorious psychopath. Everything about his image was carefully calcultated to exploit the universal generational truth that kids love what their parents fear.

Seventeen years later, Manson is touring on his eighth album, Born Villain. And to be expected, he is up to the same old tricks. The video for the title track is a art-film version of the snot-nosed brat that gets on an elevator and presses all the buttons at once: It's got weird poetry, performance body piercing, sex, nudity, a vagina with a glass eye in it, a man getting shot in the head, and all kinds of other stuff you can see on FX after 10 pm.

It's nothing new.

Musically, Manson hasn't evolved a smidge, either, still evoking the well-worn sound of Trent Reznor and David Bowie at his most morbid, digging through a filthy synth garbage can in a dark alley. Villain even has a twisted cover of a classic song your mother loves. This time, it's Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," featuring Johnny Depp.

Again, nothing new.

Of course, there are plenty of rabid fans out there—the Portland show is well sold out—and honestly, I couldn't be happier for them. But the whole thing just seems so infantile for someone as smart as Warner. Even he seems to have given up on anything that resembles creativity. He was recently photographed getting out of a limo with the words "Fuck You" scribbled across his face with a black Sharpie. If there's a lazier way to offend, I haven't heard it. Today's generation could get a better shock rubbing their bare feet across the lime-green shag carpeting in their grandparents' basement.

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