Richard G. : I am not proud of it and it may come as a shock for some of my best friends, but I confess: Marilyn Manson is a guilty pleasure of mine. The 90s trilogy 'Antichrist Superstar', 'Mechanical Animals' and 'Holy Wood' are for me solid mainstream rock albums with an irresistible industrial edge to them. More disappointing was Brian Warner's focus on his image. Playing around with androgyny and so called shocking live performances (wow, weird costumes and some naked boobs, that's quite something!) only distracted from the quality of not only some singles of anthemic proportions ('Come White' is a personal favorite), but also from the darker regular album tracks. On the other hand Manson's record sales probably rather improved than suffered from it, so who am I to criticize.
After 'Holy Wood' the band got musically less interesting. The simplistic, shouty 'The Golden Age Of Grotesque' did not convince me and apart from what commercial videos of weak cover versions, I did not really hear any new Manson music anymore for quite a while. Until recently all of a sudden I found 'Born Villain' in my mailbox, the new album that had apparently already been released back in May. And I am pleasantly surprised. A couple of years outside of the spotlight not only brought back Jeordie White (aka Twiggy Ramirez, the most important collaborator in abovementioned trilogy), it also returned the band's focus to music. The talent for writing killer rock songs has not been lost, as the two first singles show. 'No Reflection' is built on a driving beat and a catchy chorus, whereas 'Slo-Mo-Tion' has a quirky groove and a classic crooning and squealing vocal performance by Manson.
Disturbing guitar interjections, throbbing electronic beats and screaming riffs: all these ingredients make me think of 'Antichrist Superstar', but then with a more polished production and an inclination towards pop music instead of rock music. Apart from the singles, the stand out tracks for me are
'Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms' and 'Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day'. The last one is a heavy, industrial ode to Nine Inch Nails whereas the first one sounds like an honest attempt at stoner with a psychedelic touch. If you don't count the whiney chorus, they actually almost pull it off.
Unfortunately the most attention will probably be generated with the least interesting song of all: the cover version of 'You're So Vain', which features the one and only Johnny Depp on drums and guitars. Without this song and a couple of other filler tracks, the record would have been more to the point and more compact. The total playing time of one hour would not have felt likt two and 'Born Villain' would have gone down in history as a true return to form instead of a collection of some mediocre songs, some awesome songs and a cameo by Johnny Depp.