In 1996 when gig-goers had to bypass protestors picketing the first UK shows by Marilyn Manson, no-one could have foreseen that 24 years later he would still be top of his game and creating some of his best work. If anyone was destined to go down in a fiery ball of flames, you could be forgiven for putting money on it being Marilyn Manson.
The smaller Academy sized venues grew to Apollo sized venues, which in turn gave way to arenas. Even though Manson was the go-to guy for disenfranchised youth everywhere, for a while it seemed with his messy personal life played out in the tabloids, that he would burn out rather than fading away. The ability to shock using the medium of music and live performances took a hit with the advent of the worldwide web. Who needed the self-proclaimed “God of Fuck” when you could have actual fucking on the internet? Who needed theatrical preaching and shock-horror when you could watch real-life beheadings with a click of the mouse?
Reinventing himself as a scarily realistic actor, you were more likely to see Manson on TV in shows like Californication and Sons Of Anarchy than you were to see him performing on MTV. Then with the release of ‘Pale White Emperor’ in 2015, Marilyn Manson was back, and he embarked on the hottest streak he has been on since his “golden days” between 1996 and 2000. And five years after ‘Pale White Emperor’ he’s still on that hot streak, with ‘We Are Chaos’ the latest in a line of stunning albums that he has created.
If 1998’s masterpiece ‘Mechanical Animals’ was his ‘Diamond Dogs’ or ’Aladdin Sane’, then ‘We Are Chaos’ is, in places, his David Bowie ‘Berlin Trilogy’. It does kick off in fine style with the most Manson-like of the ten featured tracks – ‘Red Black and Blue’, although ‘Perfume’ does run it a close second in Manson-isms. The surprises begin with the title track, a gentle ‘White Album’-era Beatles inspired few minutes with a light, uplifting sound which perfectly contradicts lyrics such as “We are sick, fucked-up, and complicated, We are chaos, we can’t be cured”. The kind of track that listeners of BBC Radio 2 would dig without realising what Manson was actually saying. It’s easy to imagine them enjoying the melodies, humming along with this real earworm moment, then the penny drops and they finally get it.
‘We Are Chaos’ is an album with an anglophile touch. Beatles, Bowie, Bolan, Depeche Mode, maybe even some Stone Roses (‘Keep My Head Together’), and on ‘Don’t Chase The Dead’; Gary Numan. The synths are amazing and if you ever imagined what a Tubeway Army/John Carpenter mash-up might sound like, then here is the answer. The kind of moment that will have you reaching for the volume control to turn it skywards. Atmospheric, dark and brooding, but lighter than light at the same time. One of the standout moments on an album of many. ‘Paint You With My Love’ is another highlight. A gentle cool-breeze of a track that George Harrison could have produced back in the day, but with the trademark Manson sneer ramped up to the max. The hits keep coming with ‘Half-way & One Step Forward’, a gorgeous piano-driven moment that builds into something very special indeed; again, another moment that could fool unsuspecting listeners into actually enjoying Marilyn Manson.
On ‘Solve Coagula’ Manson states; “I’m not special, I’m just broken, and I don’t want to be fixed”, on the strength of ‘We Are Chaos’ there is nothing that needs fixing. Expect to see this one firmly embedded in most albums of the year polls come December.
Available now, purchase here.
Review – Dave