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Buy Marilyn Manson's 'The Golden Age of Grotesque' (2003; limited edition with bonus DVD).

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Agent Provocateur: Marilyn Manson is the ringmaster of a twisted cabaret.

Manson Family Feud

Marilyn Manson's latest album, 'The Golden Age of Grotesque,' drips with absinthe and animosity

By Sarah Quelland

SINCE PURGING himself as a media martyr on Holy Wood: In the Shadow of the Valley of Death, Marilyn Manson has reinvented himself as the quicksilver-tongued Arch Dandy of Dada. In his latest incarnation, he's grinning like the Cheshire cat with the green fairy clenched tightly between his steely jaws.

Marilyn Manson's latest release, The Golden Age of Grotesque (Nothing/Interscope), is a gripping and vindictive album that drips with absinthe and animosity. Produced by Manson and new bassist Tim Skold (formerly of KMFDM), the CD is as bitter as Antichrist Superstar, as pop as Mechanical Animals and as thoughtful as Holy Wood.

TGAOG takes its inspiration from the decadent and degenerate state of Weimar Berlin on the eve of its destruction and from the glamour of Hollywood in the 1930s. The album explores personal relationships and the relationships between chaos and order. Manson rails against his antagonists, mourns the loss of his will to love and scorns conformity, all the while inviting his fans to join in with inclusive, participatory rock anthems backed by hard European industrial-dance music thick with John 5's tight, rigid guitars.

The wheezy title track swirls in a surreal absinthe fog, lumbering like an eerie fun-house car through a twisted cabaret ride. Manson is the welcoming host and eccentric ringmaster, announcing, "We're the low-art gloominati, and we aim to depress / The scabaret sacrilegends / This is the Golden Age of Grotesque." Similarly, "Vodevil" (pronounced "vaudeville") kicks off with the sound of dusty keys provided by Pogo that is like a vintage piano player plunking away to a roomful of ghosts.

The drilling "This Is the New Shit" attacks the corporate-driven homogeny of the music industry. Manson asserts, "Everything has been said before / Nothing left to say anymore / When it's all the same, you can ask for it by name," and elaborates with perfectly sensible nonsensical lyrics "Babble-babble, bitch-bitch, rebel-rebel, party-party, sex-sex-sex and don't forget the violence." Likewise, the snappy "Doll-Dagga Buzz-Buzz Ziggety-Zag" revels in the absurd and suggests, "The toys are us, and we don't even know."

On the first single, "mOBSCENE," Manson shoots off lines like "Your freedom's not free of dumb" and "We have high places, but we have no friends," backed by a chorus of cheerleaders singing, "Be obscene, baby / Not heard." He's created a topsy-turvy alternative reality populated by double-entendres, full-frontal drugs, doppelgängers, no-class "dumbo jets," "cocaingels" and third nostrils (a concept taken from the Church of the Subgenius). Here, Walt Disney and Aldous Huxley are linked together in one magic line: "It's a depraved new world, after all" ("Ka-Boom Ka-Boom").

Manson taps the wellspring of his new rage and floods his album with vitriol on "Better of Two Evils" and the combative "Use Your Fist and Not Your Mouth." His ex-fiancee Rose McGowan, the Jackie O to his JFK, and the first lady to teach the master of hate how to love, remains a painful thorn in his scarred side. He lashes out repeatedly on behalf of his broken heart, perhaps most specifically on the barbed and penetrating "(s)AINT": "I got an F and a C, and I got a K, too, and the only thing that's missing is a bitch like U." The imagery of "Spade" is powerful ("You drained my heart and made a spade / but there's still traces of me in your veins") as is the allusion in "Slutgarden" ("I'll never promise you a garden, you'll just water me down").

Manson is handing out slices of his life, at times dirty and downright filthy. He refers to himself as "unsafe," "evil" and "everything that's bad." He's deeply offended by the common misperception that he's some sort of Jekyll and Hyde celebrity who goes home at night and tunes into must-see TV. On "Vodevil," he explains, "This isn't a show, this is my fucking life / I'm not ashamed you're entertained / but I'm not a puppet / I am a grenade." Like conjoined twins, his public and his private persona are inseparable. The result is a mixed-media masterpiece that's absurd, grotesque and beautiful all at once.


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From the May 15-21, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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