Marilyn Manson - Lest We Forget

You must have an opinion on Marilyn Manson by now. Even if you hate the chap, you can't fail to miss him, stropping about all over the place, like the worlds most famous angry teenager. The main trouble with Manson is partly of his own making and that's that his music often fails to live up to the imagery that he employs. This is also the reason why this is such a nice package as it includes a DVD that contains a complete collection of his videos. Manson is a package. His imagery and music suffer immeasurably when parted. Like a twisted, vastly more exciting, ‘Madonna’ he doesn't just re-invent himself for every album, he reinvents himself for every video.

Another thing that has to be taken into account is that Manson makes much more sense in America than he ever will in the UK. We simply don't have the same rigid high school 'jock' system, The NRA or Bible-Belt brand hard core Christianity (that taints the current White House) to rail against. Taking this into account, it's easy to see why his language, demeanor and willingness, nay, eagerness to shock go down much better in suburban Middle America than here. He shocks parents and church groups and that will always sell in the US. Manson has made it his business to be the corporate face of teen rebellion and business is good. Having made the point about the US, its also true that the themes are, to a certain extent universal, and anyone who remembers being bullied at school by the 'normal' kids will feel a certain connection to something like 'Fight Song' or 'Lunchbox'. If you weren't bullied at school for dressing 'weird' or even being 'weird', it's possible you'll never be able to understand Manson's appeal. "I don't care if your world is ending today/I wasn't invited to it anyway" to quote '(s)Aint'. Quite. We'll never know how many high-school massacres or teenage suicides Manson's prevented simply by showing the marginalised that not only are they not alone, but absolutely right to reject the standards their peers so often unthinkingly accept. Of course, you can equally argue that this is simply a market Manson is simply exploiting. You pays your money, you takes your choice on this one.

So what do we get on the CD? Well, you get the new single, 'Personal Jesus' which offers no surprises. It's a good song to begin with, of course, and Manson doesn't stray too far from the original so it's hard not to like it. Ignore the po-faced bleatings of those who complain it's not as good as the original. It's just as good, but different, is all. What Manson does best, though, is the angry pop song and this CD is bloated with them. Listen to excellent ‘(m)Obscene’ for a prime example of this. It's absolutely wonderful and is the perfect Friday night ‘going out’ song with it's bouncy, catchy chorus and pounding riff. Elsewhere, you get the excellent 'Fight Song' and 'This Is The New Shit', both prime examples of fist in the air, shout-along anthems that make the likes of Blink 182 weep real tears of frustration.

This album is as patchy as Manson's career. His early work suffers a little from it's samey production. Songs like 'The Beautiful People' are tinny, weak, pop versions of hardcore music that was never meant to sound like this. Trent Reznor's presence was never much help, given that ‘Nine Inch Nails’ were one of the dullest bands to attempt to commercialise industrial music. Freed from the constraints of his mentor, Manson has flowered into something rather special. Compare the cover of 'Tainted Love' to the feeble 'Sweet Dreams' for proof. 'Tainted Love' rattles along like shit through a goose whilst 'Sweet Dreams' is a bland nothing notable only for Manson's strained vocals. Manson has grown stronger over the years and is now producing absolutely perfect angry pop the likes of which the world is a much richer place for.

This album, on it’s own, offers nothing to the die hard Manson fan. As an introduction or handy collection for those who feel their interest might never extend beyond the odd listen now and again, it's superb. Where it becomes essential, however, is in the form of the special edition which contains a DVD the complete videos including the rather graphic '(s)Aint'.

Bonus DVD

Two words of warning are needed here. First, there's no trace of the personal commentary promised by the sticker on the cover. This is a crying shame, and, for some, a prime reason for purchase given Marilyn Manson's reputation for wit and intelligence. Second point, the promised video for '(s)Aint' is advertised as never having been seen before and, once you've seen it, you'll understand why. It's quite possibly and deliberately the most explicit pop video ever made and it's a wonder it ever got BBFC certification; it's chances of being shown unmolested anywhere on broadcast TV are slim if not zero. Directed by Asia Argento, it features scenes of self-mutilation, bondage, sex, masturbation and drug abuse. Roll up! Roll up! SEE Manson sniffing coke from a Bible! SEE Manson cavort with transvestites! SEE Manson wank himself into a frenzy! SEE Manson being sick into a toilet! Not a single taboo is left untouched. Sold? Thought so, its great and worth the price of the disc on its own.

Incidentally, as well as sniffing coke from a bible, Manson is seen injecting in a fairly graphic sequence that far surpasses the scene in Pulp Fiction that had to be reframed to gain the same 18 certificate this is blessed with. Hmm, John Travolta can't be seen to be injecting, but a pop star with a massive teenage fan base can? BBFC, eh? What a bunch of idiots.

Listen, it doesn't matter if you don't like the music, if you have an ounce of ability to appreciate pure aesthetics you cannot fail to enjoy the videos. Manson, as stated above, is a package and the imagary that accompanies the songs are essential. Each one, even the early ones, are blessed with high production values and the sort of imagination that can only be described as disturbed. Along the trip through these twenty videos you'll encounter Nazi imagery, underground pop culture references, sex, violence and the whole diseased American dream. You'll get his twisted take on the Kennedy assassination, much naked flesh and virtually every frame is composed in order to provoke some sort of reaction on the part of the viewer; whether you react with disgust, humour, admiration or disdain, it's a testament to the skill and craftsmanship employed that he sometimes manages to provoke all at once - Essential viewing for anyone interested in the art of direction or modern pop culture.

Picture quality is excellent and the sound is of a similar high standard, occasionally sounding better than the CD that it accompanies even if it is in stereo throughout. The menus can be awkward to negotiate, you can either watch all the videos at once, in which case they run in backward chronological order, or can choose them by album. There's also a fairly pointless picture gallery, made slightly more interesting by the addition of some good live performance shots, and a fairly complete discography. All in all, this is a great package but without the DVD, it loses much of its appeal.

*Easter Egg*

On the 'Special Features' screen, a little bit of button pushing will reveal and ‘Autopsy’ option. This will let you watch a rather unpleasant short film that runs for about three minutes or so. Is there anything this DVD doesn't have? Well, yes, a commentary.

Offical Album Site - Click here.

Overall

9

out of 10

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