Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals at 20
When Manson wasn’t debuting this demented new croon, he was embracing Gary Glitter-style glam rock, especially on the hit singles, “The Dope Show,” “Rock Is Dead,” and “I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me),” which were all swinging shuffles and slo-mo disco stomps.
Occasionally the catchy new flourishes had a sarcastic overbite, like the gang of soulettes behind him on “Speed of Pain” and “I Don’t Like the Drugs,” or the Beck-cum-Jimmy Fallon falsetto do-do-dos that cue up “User Friendly,” though it’s hard to argue Bowie’s “plastic soul” was comparatively sincere. Manson’s targets, though, as you or the Onion would imagine, tended towards whatever sounded most scandalous to put in kids’ brains at the time, hence the equivocation of “cops and queers” on “The Dope Show,” which boasted one of 1998’s most quoted choruses, and topped it off with X-Files-style synth whooshes to make the timestamp extra large.
There were better transgressive moments, though, like when Manson in his silver-boobed glory inhabited “New Model No. 15” claiming to be “correctly political” and explaining “I can suck it and smile.” The astonishing, deeply cynical “User Friendly” was luckily not burned into kids’ sternums all summer, even with the assist from G-funk synths: “I’m not in love but / I’m gonna fuck you ‘til / Something better comes along.” And then there’s “I Want to Disappear,” which could be tapping an actual cruel vein of his fans with a mic-drop like “We love the abuse because it makes us feel like we are needed,” except we know from Manson’s carefully considered response to the Columbine school shooting that his heart has a brain in there. Just because it’s surrounded by hollower fortune cookies like “God is just a statistic and “She wants me to be perfect like Kennedy” doesn’t mean a broken clock doesn’t land on a note of empathy a couple times on his camp opus.
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