Marilyn Manson
Portrait of an American Family


3.5
great

Review

by Jacob Russell USER (29 Reviews)
January 10th, 2013 | 19 replies | 1,368 views


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: How did Manson fair very early in his career?

5 of 5 thought this review was well written

Marilyn Manson has certainly made a name for himself. Whether you love him, hate him or don't know much about him, you've heard his name somewhere. His debut LP "Portrait of an American Family" kinda sits in the background to his other more popular releases. Very few of these songs get much recognition by the band anymore, but just because it has pretty much been left on the side of the road, does that really make it an inferior album?

It opens with Marilyn reciting the poem from the infamous tunnel boat ride scene from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." It starts as an eerie murmur, but eventually turns to insane screaming and yelling and turns to a theme of abolute insanity. It's interesting to say the least. There's somewhat of an aura of cheesy, and somewhat disturbing insanity with this whole album and that's one of my favorite parts about this; the insanity of it is so trippy and cliche that it turns out to be pretty entertaining and creative.

"Cake and Sodomy" gives the album a proper introduction, a filthy, disgusting, and wretched alternative metal song that really shows that Manson was trying to piss off parents and attract rebellious teenagers. This is the parents' bane in the 90's. The themes include sex, pornography, incest, fecal matter, and rape. I'm mixed on this. The shocking themes certainly have a "you're trying too hard" attitude to it, but clearly it worked or else Manson wouldn't have the name he's created for himself. The guitar work is somewhat unorganized and klanky, but it's not too unpleasant. It's certainly worth listening to regardless.

"Lunchbox" was one of the last surviving songs of the "Portrait" era, and it's damn good. It's a schoolyard anthem dealing with the banning of metal lunchboxes (since they were used as weapons quite often back in the day) and fighting back against bullies. It's a good, super fun song that absolutely REEKS with the glorious stank of the nineties.

If you've heard any of Marilyn Manson's later songs, you can certainly hear at this point he was still trying to develop a voice. He sounds young and kinda generic in this song with yelling that you can hear in a lot music from this era. Basically, he didn't quite have it yet, but that's really not a big issue. Plenty of vocalists go through this and he doesn't really sound bad at all. You can just tell he was still practicing.

I never listened to "Organ Grinder" much. It's kind of boring actually. Every couple of lines follow a rather predictable pattern and the guitar work just feels like it's just there. It doesn't stand out at all and is painfully boring. The lyrics are interesting though and Manson sings them well.

"Cyclops" is shorter and really heavy with very thick riffs and very loud screaming throughout. It has a very grungy nineties sound about it and it kinda reminds me of Alice in Chains in a straight jacket. The guitar is still kinda bland and doesn't do anything fancy, but everything else about the sound makes up for it.

"Dope Hat" is one of my all time favorite Marilyn Manson songs. The guitar and drums are bouncy and catchy, the lyrics are dark and also very catchy, and it has a classic, creepy atmosphere going on with the "ooweeoo" sounding keyboard. The music video is also genius, again referencing "Willy Wonka" but it's more like willy Wonka on several different kinds of illegal narcotics. It's certainly the most fun I've had with a Manson song and is a must listen for any fan, or anyone who's starting to get into his music.

"Get Your Gunn" is another case of "trying to hard" and succeeding. This was a rather popular single, so it was probably more effective than "Cake and Sodomy" was. The phrase "God Damn your righteous hand" is repeated over and over and the lyrics contain references to murder, domestic abuse, and self harm. If "Lunchbox" is a schoolyard anthem, them "Get Your Gunn" is the angsty teenage version. It seems like a theme song for troubled teens and on top of that, it's a pretty great song too.

"Wrapped in Plastic" starts with a slow bass riff accompanied with unsettling, and somewhat annoying, blood curdling screams and random, intelligible speaking in the background. Probably the most disturbing intro yet, but after that, this song isn't much special. Like "Organ Grinder", I never went back to this one much. The song feels a bit empty to me. Though it's not bad, it's still one of the weaker of the album.

I really like "Dogma". It's a fast paced heavy metal tune that has straightforward, anti-religious lyrics. I love the straightforward lyrics because it's something that anyone can understand what he's trying to say. Example: "I don't need your hate; I decide my fate." I specifically like that because it's basically my views on the subject too, but I digress. This is a very fun and pretty heavy tune.

"Sweet Tooth" is another slow and ominous tune, but it's not quite as boring as the other ones that I've noted on. Still nothing very special and there are certainly better tracks to listen to here, but it's entertaining. The skipping effect on the vocals is kinda cool and the simple bass is pretty nice too.

I love "Snake Eyes and Sissies" despite it's amusing title. It's a somewhat groovy, extremely industrial song track with lyrics that were stuck in my head for weeks. I seem to have been using the term "fun" quite a bit in this review, which is odd because when people think of Marilyn Manson, fun isn't exactly the first thing to pop up. This goes to show how much of a black sheep this album is.

"My Monkey" can go one of two ways with you. It can either be a fun, silly, creative tune, or you can think it's ear-bleedingly annoying. I'm leaning more towards the former. Manson's vocals are pitch shifted up for a chipmunkish effect and that's really the deal breaker. I can listen to it, but many people may not be able to handle it without wanting to tear their hair out. I personally think that the instrumental work stands out most. It's diverse and really stands out on this album. I really enjoy this song.

"Misery Machine" starts off more nu sounding than the rest of the album. About 2:30 in, it slows down significantly and starts to remind me more of his later releases, which makes this song appropriate for being a closer. It's like a window for what is to come. After that there's about 2 more minutes of instrumentals and limited vocals, and then it cuts to a screaming woman, 6 minutes of a ringing telephone, and then some mother picking the phone up saying not to call anymore. It's certainly not something I listen to a lot to say the least, considering most of the song doesn't contain much song, but the bit that does contain material is pretty good.

Marilyn Manson's first steps were pretty good ones. While this album is certainly inferior to his future endeavors, it's certainly a good listen. It's sense of cheesy horror, crazy instrumentals, and quite a bit of creativity makes this album a fun listen and certainly something you should try out.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
TheSmashBro
January 10th 2013



256 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Geez this was actually a pretty hard album to review.
I was gonna review all of Manson's main releases too, but this kinda put a damper on my spirits.

ThrashTillDeath94
January 10th 2013



590 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is quite possibly one of the only track by track reviews I enjoyed reading. You were very descriptive and made good points. Pos'd, keep it up.

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
January 10th 2013



19453 Comments


yeah reads really smoothly for a track by track pos'd

Digging: The Who - Tommy

TheSmashBro
January 10th 2013



256 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks, guys. I've mostly only written track by tracks because if I don't, I'll feel like I'm missing out on a lot of details.

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
January 10th 2013



19453 Comments


whatever works man. i didn't even realize it was track by track at first cause it read so smoothly.

linguist2011
Contributing Reviewer
January 10th 2013



1846 Comments


This album is really enjoyable when you put aside the obviously more ambitious sounding records such as 'Antichrist Superstar' or 'Mechanical animals', I feel. It doesn't take itself too seriously yet draws on gruesome subjects such as Incest and rape. The album cover also looks pretty creepy. As is all of MM's releases in the 90's. As for the review, it was decent, but I felt it was a bit too long and overdrawn what with the separate descriptions for each particular song. Good job though.

Digging: Black Anvil - Hail Death

LPFTW
January 10th 2013



183 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

I wonder if my review for Smells Like Children influenced this...

BTW really good review

Digging: Coldplay - Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends

TheSmashBro
January 10th 2013



256 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@LPFTW Oh hell. I didn't even noticed someone finally reviewed that. I was hoping to be the first XD

MO
January 10th 2013



18243 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

lots of nostalgia here holy shit, awesome album

Digging: Immolation - Dawn of Possession

TheSmashBro
January 10th 2013



256 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm too young to have nostalgia for Manson. Only been a fan for about two years, and I hate myself for that. Haha.

misterbananagrabber
January 10th 2013



13 Comments


Arguably the most industrial Marilyn Manson ever was with the samples and sounds and whatnot. Good review.

Acanthus
January 10th 2013



9537 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really fun album, the early band image was cool too.

Digging: The Cure - The Head on the Door

TheSmashBro
January 10th 2013



256 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@misterbananagrabber You're probably right, but Born Villain was pretty industrial too! Most so since Golden Age.

TheSmashBro
January 10th 2013



256 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Golden Age was alright, but Born Villain had such a great sound to it despite being lyrically weak.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
January 11th 2013



3335 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I love Lunchbox and Get Your Gunn, they are some of his best songs. Berkowitz' guitar work is not that heavy and monolithic, he brings a more layered approach for the songs. He's second to John 5 as a guitarist in MM.

Digging: Karma To Burn - Arch Stanton

greencorn5
January 11th 2013



187 Comments


Get your Gunn was written about an abortion doctor that was murdered by a pro life activist. His last name was Gunn, don't remember his 1st name.

TheSmashBro
January 11th 2013



256 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Huh. That's very interesting. I didn't know that. Thank you, good sir.
For my next Manson reviews, I'm gonna do a lot more research and make less assumptions about the meanings.

DominionMM1
January 11th 2013



9538 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"While this album is certainly inferior to his future endeavors"

i completely disagree. have a pos.

Digging: Neurosis - Through Silver in Blood

KriegdemKriege
July 6th 2014



961 Comments


fare*

neg



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