Review Summary: A decent folk album with a haunting melancholic mood but also quite a lot of filler.
Charles Manson is obviously known more for his murders than for his music, so it is hard to be objective when listening to ‘Lie’. While many people instantly disregard it as just a collection of poor folk songs with only novelty worth, others claim that Manson could have become famous as a musician had things turned out differently - Neil Young and Dennis Wilson themselves were both fans of his music before he gained the notoriety. The Beach Boys actually went as far as recording a Manson song, ‘Cease to Exist’ with slightly altered lyrics, as ‘Never Learn Not To Love’.
‘Lie’ contains a mixture of folk and psychedelia, but with most of the emphasis on the folk side. Many of the songs feature just Manson and his acoustic guitar, though occasionally other instruments such as sitar and flute appear, giving the album it’s psychedelic/acid folk feel. When percussion is introduced it is light and stays in the background, putting most of the focus on Manson and his guitar playing. Backing vocals are occasionally provided by members of the Manson family.
Manson’s guitar playing is very simplistic, with him often playing doing little more than repeatedly strumming a few simple chords. Despite this simple approach he does manage to create some nice melodies and hooks, and it gives the album it’s moody atmosphere. It doesn’t always work well however. While songs like ‘Look At Your Game, Girl’ have strong catchy hooks that drive them forward, sometimes the overly-sparse playing style gets slightly tedious and boring, and there are a number of filler tracks in the middle of the album. Even at only just over 30 minutes long, it is quite easy to get bored of the album quickly.
Manson himself is definitely a very good vocalist. The singing has a warm and pleasant tone, and a slightly haunting quality that fits right in with the lo-fi melancholic mood of the music perfectly. Many of the lyrics are delivered spoken word, but the parts where Manson is singing work the best. His lyrics which are on the topics of society and ironically ‘peace and love’ are decent, if sometimes slightly simplistic.
‘Lie’ also contains a number of more experimental psychedelic songs. Some of these work well, like the truly bizarre ‘Mechanical Man’ with it’s strange mumbling backing vocals, frantic sitar, and odd lyrics and the dark and gloomy ‘Ego’. These songs give the album more variety and keeping it interesting, but mostly the experiments do not work so well and end up breaking the flow of the album unnecessarily. Many of the songs in the middle of the album are little more than boring spoken word sections, but as they’re so short it doesn’t become as much of a problem as it could be.
So is ‘Lie’ more than just being a simple gimmick? The truth is, if you were to play it, or at least some of the better tracks, to people without saying who the singer is they’d probably like it. Then you can tell them who they’ve been listening to and watch them grimace in disgust. While a pleasant listen though, apart from a select few songs, it’s nothing really special and little more than a nice folk album.