Album: Marilyn Manson - WE ARE CHAOS: The Antichrist Superstar softens up
by Russ Coffey for The Arts Desk
It's the self-portrait on the cover that gives the first hint that something's changed with Marilyn Manson. The eyes are blank, his face weary. No longer does the singer look like the Antichrist Superstar. He seems more like a middle-aged rocker in the midst of an identity crisis.
He says as much, too, on the title track. During the bridge section, Manson rasps "Am I a man or a show, or moment ?" What really strikes you, though, is not the existential questioning. It's the change of musical style.
The song's gently strummed chords usher in a strangely plaintive baritone. On the verse, Manson sounds like Nick Cave singing the tune from the Beatles' "Across the Universe", the doom-laden vocals contrasting with the wide-eyed chords. In the chorus, the mood shifts. The words "we are, sick, fucked up and complicated" are sung as a rousing anthem for the dispossessed.
And so it is throughout the album, with dark melodies and minor chords alternating with fist-pumping choruses. Manson's usual industrial elements are still there just dominated by Seventies and Eighties rock.
The new musical palette comes courtesy of producer (and country singer) Shooter Jennings, who wrote and arranged the music on the album. Jennings and Manson got together after bonding over their shared love of David Bowie.
That love of the Thin White Duke is clear on "Don't Chase the Day", which echoes Bowie's later Eno period. The album's other influences are equally obvious. "Perfume" sounds like Depeche Mode at their most gothic. The album's prettiest song, "Paint You with My Love", is pure T-Rex, right down to the lyrics - "Honky-tonk devils glitter in/Like royal rats in kitten skin'. Manson's deep vocals add a hint of Bauhaus.
The result of all this genre-blending is an album that's more tuneful and affecting than anything else he's recorded. In interviews, the singer has intimated the reason for changing his soundscape was to press reset on his career. More likely, though, he'd just tired of playing the pantomime villain. After all, who is there left to shock? The most shocking thing on WE ARE CHAOS is the revelation that as a good old-fashioned goth, Manson is so darn entertaining.