By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The sound . . . godamighty. It's not the obsessive steel hammering overseer Trent Reznor lent to previous albums, but I still don't advise exposing yourself to more than half the CD at a sitting. When I arrived at store's opening with sweaty 20 in fist, the clerk was skeptical: "Are you sure you want to listen to this this early in the morning?" As produced by Manson and Michael Beinhorn ("He smoked cigars, spent a lot of money," Manson told MTV when asked about Beinhorn's role), Mechanical Animals does all the things digital sound does best: cuts, slugs, gives you a pounding headache. It avoids being just another gloom record because it was made by rockers and decorated by interior designers, not the other way around. Its triumph is that, especially on the slower songs, it also massages those abdominal regions where ambiguous emotions reside.
Mechanical Animals has inspired apt comparisons to David Bowie's 1974 Diamond Dogs, for me the first album that embodied the lure of sleaze. An alienated shithead of 23 who'd just moved to L.A., I couldn't figure why Bowie's dystopia of filth, corruption and predation was called a "Future Legend" - if I walked out my front door, I'd slip in it. Which was a big reason I was here, I guess. Since I had the luxury of keeping one foot out, though, my response to those who were fully engulfed was equal parts revulsion, voyeurism and empathy. Manson wants you to acknowledge the first two so you can reach the last. What he understands, and what enables this supposed pervert to speak to a broad spectrum, is that nobody's clean. You might not connect directly with the fucks and pills of the lyrics, but the sonic dirt feels like your dirt, rich as the dust behind your couch cushions. The right kind of defilement - Manson's deep layers of synth fur and effects serving the function of Bowie's self-played guitar slop - just might suck you into a new head space.
It's a complex experience, rolling around in Manson's ditch. Just as often as I feel like boozing, I feel like aerobicizing. Unlike so much of the "decadent" music I lapped up as a youth - the Bowie and Alice Cooper and Johnny Thunders - Mechanical Animals doesn't make gutter-dredging seem like either a frivolous diversion or a way of life. It's just another human compulsion, deep and unavoidable.
Whether he practices it I don't know, but, at 29, Marilyn Manson has begun to preach Christian love. Deep down, he's a moralist - he just wants to differentiate between real morals and artificially imposed ones. In response to a "white world" where "we are drained of colors," he's turned himself and his band into gaudy, languid unisex robots that know how to suffer. Identifying with such familiar toys is pretty easy, easier than with some ancient idol on a cross - and Manson is, in fact, offering himself as an alternative to that idol. Call it blasphemy if you want; I call it a tribute.