Shock Rock is Dead

Oh Marilyn Manson, you’ve let me down. You used to be about something new and exciting. The wild stage shows, the styling, the aggressive defiance; it was something different and attention grabbing. And beyond that, beyond the eyeliner and leather, there was some really great music. Antichrist Superstar, Holy Wood and Mechanical Animals (my personal favourite), these were powerful and intense records. Compelling concept albums that really created something different with real attention to detail. The design, the story-lines, the videos, the intricate lyrics – they were real pieces of art carefully put together. There were the hits, the big sing-a-long anthems, and quieter classics. Coma White, Target Audience, Tourniquet; these were incredible pieces of sound. Songs about numbness and nihilism, love and violence, beauty and decay and a heavy dose of darkness. I remember hearing these albums as a teenager and them really melting my little mind, I was enrapt. I saw the band play when I was 18 and the stage show was immense, large props, costume changes, dancing girls, it was an amazing experience.

greater times...

greater times…

So now what? Maybe I’m older, less easily impressed, but the band have produced very little new music since Holy Wood that’s had much of an impact on me. In some ways it’s the same old thing, but the rest of the world has moved on. Most of what I’ve heard recently has felt too much like a tedious stab at being controversial (more slagging off religion and talking about drugs? snore.) or whiny references to ended relationships (Manson seems to hit headlines more now for dating starlets and pornstars than for actually creating great music). Popstars like Lady Gaga and Rhianna are creating things that are both more innovative and controversial. Shock in itself isn’t enough to make a career, and audiences now have seen it, thery’re not so easily startled. And behind the wild statements and antics, it doesn’t feel like there’s much substance. Frequent changes in musicians have made the act feel less like a cohesive band and I think the music has suffered.  I’ve heard reports from a lot of sources from his Download festival performance a few years ago, he seemed old and wasted, he’d lost it.

Trent Reznor’s still producing music that seems relevant and exciting (see recent oscar-winning collaboations  for The Social Network and the music he did for Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), but Manson seems to have been left behind. His hotly anticipated film about Lewis Carrol ‘Phantasmoagoira’ , due to be staring Lily Cole as Alice, seems to have completely dipped off the radar. I feel like a teenage part of me is still waiting for a return to greatness, but I may be willing to accept that Marilyn Manson was a piece of its time, it has it’s perfect place in the late 90s and perhaps that shouldn’t be touched. Being a Manson fan used to be something of a statement in itself, but now it’s more likely to receive a response of ‘Oh, is he still around?‘. It’s sad, but doesn’t detract from the greatness of some of the earlier work. And it’s definitely not without its influence, you can see a bit of Manson in many of today’s biggest rock (and even pop) acts.

This recent nostalgia-trip and reflection was triggered off when I recently caught this Manson-inspired editorial by one of my favourite photographers, Michael David Adams. I feel like he’s captured some of Manson’s quite iconic looks (there are some nods to a few different eras here) and translated them into a glossy fashion-format. it made me think of how many people, musicians,artists and others, have drawn influence from Manson and his career. He may have lost some of his original impact, but he still remains a distinctive cultural icon and will always have his place a generations history. It was quite the fantastic show.

One thought on “Shock Rock is Dead

  1. I agree, although I did love Golden Age of Grotesque. I think for Manson while the music was good, it wasn’t that brilliant – what made him (and the band I suppose) was the outfits, the shock, the politics, the artwork. I think the situation with Lady Gaga is actually really similar – if I listen to her music while imagining someone blander performing it, it loses most of its lustre.

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