Review Summary: Nothing's shocking. Go home, Brian.
We’re only a few months away from the end of the first decade of the 2000s. A ridiculous amount of things have changed between the turn of the century and right now, with plenty of specific examples to choose from. But today’s lesson is on the work of Brian Warner – better known to the general public as Marilyn Manson.
In the first half of the 2000s, Warner was public enemy number one for a moment in time, leading on from severe controversy of the late nineties. If any youth-gone-wrong story was running on a major network, you could be ninety percent certain that it would be linked back somehow to Marilyn Manson’s music. Let’s not forget the two school shootings that used Manson’s music as a scapegoat. In spite of this, and in turn with the ideal that “all publicity is good publicity”, the sales for albums like Mechanical Animals
, Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)
and even, to an extent, 2003’s The Golden Age of Grotesque
skyrocketed (as well as a greatest hits CD the following year).
But come the second half of the 00s, the unthinkable happened.
The shock wore off.
With Manson’s last effort, 2007’s Eat Me, Drink Me
, it appeared that MM was looking to recapture former glories – if not in terms of controversy, then at the very least in terms of musicality. When that failed, Warner had no choice but to bring in the big guns. And by “the big guns”, we of course are referring to the reinstatement of founding band member Twiggy Ramirez. A part of the band when they were in their prime, one would assume that if anyone would have the right ideas in order to get the Manson brand back on track, it would be Ramirez. Surely the pairing once more would assist in at least a catchy chorus somewhere along the line – even when Manson albums have been at their lowest, a hook or three have never gone astray. Alas, this is simply not the case with The High End of Low
. The band is far too busy chasing its tail, and up front, Marilyn himself is sounding like the embodiment of the famous Onion article all those years ago, going door-to-door trying to shock people.
Before we get around to the next chapter of “What Brian Did and Why You Shouldn’t Do It”, let’s analyse the instrumental side of this record. There are a few interesting ideas around the start of the record- opener “Devour” layers spacious, clean guitar until it develops into distorted crunch, accompanied by thick drums and a heightened level of intensity surrounding the vocal hook. Elsewhere, “Four Rusted Horses” boasts a bluesy, Johnny Cash-esque acoustic noodling in time with a stomp box – and if it continued entirely on in this fashion, it would even be considered an album highlight. If this look at the positive aspects of the music seems quite brief, then it will only take one listen to The High End of Low to figure out why.
Next to everything on this record has not only been done before on several occasions, but has been done far better. The slower tracks are plagued with glitchy industrial loops and the same warped arpeggios, whilst the more upbeat tracks (a rarity on such a gloomy record) are the least fun they’ve ever been. Warner’s voice is also an atrocity, even after being processed and produced to buggery, probably the weakest and most artificial it has ever sounded (see “Wow” and “Pretty as a Swastika”).
And sure, they’ve never been well known for excellent lyrics, but try some of these works of Livejournal genius on for size. “It’s not like I made myself a list of new and different ways to murder your heart” (“Leave a Scar”). “We’re running to the edge of the world, but I don’t know if the world will end today” (“Running to the Edge of the World”). And, finally, the crème-de-la-crème: “First you try to *** it, then you try to eat it/If it hasn’t learned your name, you better kill it before they see it” (“Arma-Goddamn-Mother***ing-Geddon”, easily the worst name for anything ever).
Think that was bad? They’re just getting warmed up – you haven’t experienced the worst of it yet. It’s time for you to be introduced to track eight. Entitled “I Want to Kill You Like They Do in the Movies”, there is honestly no better description for this song than nine minutes of pure torture. Line after line of lyrics just as bad as the ones used earlier (some even worse), irritating drones of instrumentation, awful vocals…this song is truly the stuff nightmares are made of. The best advice to give in regards to this particular song is to only experience it once; because you will never want to subject yourself to it again.
2009 has been a year of polar opposites thus far, with some of the best albums to be released this decade, along with some of the absolute worst. The High End of Low is destined for the bottom of the latter barrel – the name, face, band and music of Marilyn Manson is old enough to know better, but most certainly isn’t young enough to not care.