Review Summary: Trying to find his footing again.
For the select few artists in history that break almost every ground in their field of music, the type of artist that has said and done everything with minimal effort, tend to reach that dangerous junction in their career where they have to ask themselves if they want to continue writing music for the love of it or just for the financial sake of it. Adding more pressure, they run the risk of ruining a respectable reputation they have built.
Marilyn Manson most certainly falls into this category.
I tend to look at Manson's career in 4 sections: the pre-trilogy material such as Smells like Children; the trilogy (debatably his finest works); then The Golden Age of Grotesque which I consider the breather album that is enjoyed on its own; the last section of his career are his last three albums which completely stray away from the conventions you know Manson for: they are a lot more stripped down, lacking the industrial elements and going a lot more straight edge rock. Basically a large experiment of what works and what doesn't, and many would agree it's been hit and miss.
As the years have gone on many have questioned whether Manson is still really relevant in this day and age, losing both concept and lyrical intelligence. The steady decline in quality has certainly backed the question up.
So with 2012's 'Born Villain' the main question that should be asked is why should you, the listener, bother checking this out? As I see this as a continuation of the sound Manson has been trying to craft, Born Villain is the most complete and cohesive effort out of the three albums. The most obvious thing about Born Villain is the production, which takes a very simplistic approach to the music. It feels stripped back, almost naked, as opposed to the heavy, full and fat sound you’re used to in previous records. The album once again sees the return of fan favourite Twiggy back in the song writing seat with Manson.
The album is chock full of cool grooves. You notice a certain structure they use quite a lot in Born Villain, which is the bass driving the song with drums locked in tight with guitar taking a backseat. Songs like ‘The Flowers of Evil’ and ‘The Gardener’ use this trick very effectively and it’s hard not to tap a foot while Manson sings. It definitely brings fresh excitement to Manson’s sound. While ‘Children of Cain’ and ‘Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms’ build up to a great chorus where Manson’s vocals shine.
The downsides to Born Villain really fall on the generic riff writing, which, while all the songs are solid at the least, you’ll have heard the structures and styles a million times before. Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms has a great chorus, but the opening riff that is played through most of the song sounds like it came straight out the Alice in Chains band camp. Further obvious influences fall under 70’s rock like Iggy Pop/The Stooges.
The real shame of the album though is the experimental build up type parts that very subtly creep into songs like Children of Cain and sound brilliant, the downfall is that these parts are never fully executed properly and end up effecting the flow of the song a little bit and leaving you wishing their was more of it. It could have really been the fresh injection Manson needs.
This is also the album that brings Manson’s anger back in a sense. ‘Murderers Are Getting Prettier Everyday’ is reminiscent of Antichrist Superstar and for the most part, Manson sounds like he is really putting all heart and effort into this record. Lyrics are still a colossal failure compared to, say, Holy Wood, but it’s also probably the strongest effort since Holy Wood too. There is the odd cheesy lyric, but for the most part they’re good.
It would be unfair to compare Born Villain to the first half of his career, but compared to anything he’s done in recent years this is his most consistent effort. Taking the best parts from the last two records to make this album. It’s not perfect, but a very solid and enjoyable listen.
It’ll be interesting to see where he takes his next sonic venture.
Well Worth Checking.