Review Summary: The glam, the fame, the drugs.
It's funny how doing the right thing at the right time gets you where you want to be in life. After shaking the goofy “Spooky Kids” tagline attached to the Manson name, creating an image as equally provocative as the music, and writing material that left more than a lasting impression with Antichrist Superstar
, in 1996 they created a machine that didn’t just turn heads, it twisted them off the shoulders. By 1998 Marilyn Manson was a household name and whether it was trash talking or praise, the singer was one of the most talked about celebrities of the decade.
So with a platinum album under your belt, how do you follow up on an album that broke you into the mainstream?
Make more of the same?
Do a heavier record?
Try neither, Manson took what you had come to expect from him and went the other way, instead proving he’s not afraid of using a little experimentation. If you’d said to fans of Antichrist Superstar
that Mechanical Animals
will be heavily based on the 70’s David Bowie glam era, the chances are you’d have been laughed out of the building. The truth is Marilyn Manson did use David Bowie as inspiration, both visually and sonically; the final product is an album that is half as aggressive and more upbeat in tone.
From the moment "Great Big White World" kicks in you’re instantly taken back by the change in style, the biggest change coming from Manson’s vocals: he has a bigger understanding of his voice and you can tell he has a stronger awareness and control over what he does. What worked for Antichrist
is Manson’s vocals were very unhinged, you got the sense he just went for it -- not giving a damn -- and the formula fitted the chaotic music perfectly. This time round the band has concentrated on pushing their musical abilities, going where they themselves probably wouldn’t have expected. It’s this approach that makes songs flourish with melody, which is backed up with a polished production; synthesizers are heavily present in songs and generally, it’s all been turned down to accommodate a very exciting time in the band's career.
There are so many catchy hooks found throughout the 14 tracks, you’ll find yourself humming the likes of "Dope Show", "Rock Is Dead" and "I Don’t Like the Drugs, But The Drugs Like Me" for days. Guitars have a broad epicness to them that really shine on "Mechanical Animals", "Disassociative", "Great Big White World" and "Coma White" to name a few. It creates a fat, epic sound and brings real depth to songs. Bass sticks close to the beat on Mechanical Animals
, but the groove on this album is undeniable: "Dope Show" and "Rock is Dead" are highlights for Twiggy’s bouncy bass riffs, along with the foot tapping "I Don’t Like The Drugs, But The Drugs Like Me", which oozes in 70’s funk. The album basically showcases a bunch of people maturing as musicians, and their determination benefits from the ideas put into the songs.
This is also the second instalment of the Triptych trilogy. The story tells the tale of two characters: the first being Omega (pictured on the album cover); an alien who falls down to earth, getting captured in the process, and turned into a glam rocker, playing music in a band called "The Mechanical Animals." Omega is a drug addict and uses them as a way of coping with the realities of being a corporate puppet. The second character is Alpha who is trying to get to grips with using his emotions for the very first time; he struggles to understand them though, because he feels humans don’t have a lot of emotion themselves, and struggles to control and use his own. Both characters eventually set out to look for Coma White -- unsure if it’s a drug or a person -- in the hope it’ll make the them feel whole. The concept this time out is a lot less dark compared to Antichrist’s subject matter and focus’ more on drugs and fame. Needless to say, the concept on this album is just as intriguing as the other two instalments.
Overall, Mechanical Animals
is the album that caught everyone off guard by going in the opposite direction to what people expected. Proving there was more to this band than meets the eye. It’s an album that manages to please easy listeners, but still gives depth to people who like to sink their teeth into something more. The change in sound showed that Marilyn Manson was here to stay. If Antichrist Superstar
’s rough round the edges sound wasn’t for you, Mechanical Animals
will take you in the opposite direction: crystal clear production; fantastic song writing; and as smooth and slick as Omega’s genitalia.