Marilyn Manson - Born Villain
2012 Cooking Vinyl
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Marilyn Manson may not be grabbing headlines on firesale like he used to, but that doesn't mean he can't still put out some groovy cool music. Like him or not, the man is focused, creatively-speaking. If anything, Manson's affinity for David Bowie goes full tilt on his latest release, Born Villain and that's not a rip. It's an affirmative nod that Manson still has something to entice us with when frankly, his marquee factor was burned up well before he released 2009's The High End of Low.
With a stripped mojo, heavier gears in place and a backup band you might as well refer to as industrial diamond dogs, Born Villain kicks and struts instead of flogs and shocks. Antichrist Superstar and Holy Wood are yesterday and Manson has the saviness to understand and accept it. "The Beautiful People" remains his legacy tune, but for all of his high profile touring alongside Slayer and now Rob Zombie, his drawing power has been reliant upon something bigger than he is. That's become slightly out of fashion now, which has left Marilyn Manson as an artist in a quandry. Fortunately, he had the smarts to reinvent his sound and put on some high riding kicks for Born Villain.
"No Reflection" is straight out of Bowie's fantabulous flame-on glam years, as is much of Manson's latest venture. "No Reflection" catches a groove and it's one of the tightest vibes he's pushed unto his audience. Better yet is the subsequent "Pistol Whipped," one the sexiest and nastiest cuts of the album. Sexy is hardly a word anyone outside of the Goth underground would care to attribute to Marilyn Manson's music, but "Pistol Whipped's" raunchy verve and slinking drum whacks in the chorus are undeniably Bowie and undeniably infectious for Manson's electro-pumping purposes. A new jam thus emerges for the pole dance.
Even "Overneath the Path of Misery" treads into Bowie territory, albeit the Low and Scary Monsters eras and this allows Manson to embrace his tortured id once more. Both gnarled and gnarly in its brackish cadence, there's a panting sweatiness to "Overneath the Path of Misery" that makes the most of its arcane inhibitations and Manson and his posse punches it out with a mean stamp. "Slo-Mo-Tion," on the other hand, is a single, grinding embodiment of Bowie's career up through Let's Dance. If Manson was validated for taking wild glam turns on his Mechanical Animals album, "Slo-Mo-Tion" is the album's honor-graduating antecedent. Dirty, sleazy and wallowing, Manson pulls it off because he's such an apt pupil of Bowie and seventies glam rock he makes the ethos his own for the here and now.
While Bowie continues to influence Manson on "The Gardener," there's also a Love and Rockets/Daniel Ash sway guiding the song's rhythmtic slide. Alternative rock and loud fuzz rock intermingle perfectly on "The Gardener" and it's almost unfathomable Manson had this in him if you were to gauge his full frontal heyday years. His id still has a perpetual boner, but "The Gardener" proves Marilyn Manson can use it to glide instead of skull fuck.
Born Villain does get heavier and sometimes weirder through the remainder of the album, culminating forcefully on the sardonic "Murderers Are Getting Prettier All the Time," by far the fiercest track of the album. Even Al Jourgensen and Ministry ought to approve of this one. Interestingly, the title track slips into a classic rock jive as interpreted through industrial modes following a creepy acoustic intro. Perhaps this is Manson at his most haunted, which means he isn't fully ready to release his demons, but then, why should he? Too much of a commandeering to the other side would spell his inevitable demise from the scene.
Whether or not the public buys into Born Villain remains to be seen, but if it does, there's no denying they'll be well-entertained. Even Manson's nonsensical cover of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" fits this album's devil-glam motif in such a snarky way you have to tip a charbroiled top hat to him. This album is precisely the tuneful, slithering vehicle Marilyn Manson needed to stay relevant without selling out. Some listeners may need adjustment to the two-step shuffling Manson dishes out on Born Villain, but if he can compromise with a confident poise and still maintain his eerie alter ego, then more of this, if you please, Mr. Manson...