photo & text by nacrowe
when i discovered MARILYN MANSON and the ANTICHRIST SUPERSTAR (review linked HERE) album in seventh grade, it felt at the time like the perfect expression of my tortured teenage existence living amongst a bunch of AMERICAN SOUTHERNERS abroad in NIGERIA. that record showcased a distilled and unadulterated NIHILISTIC viewpoint that was CAUSTIC as much as it was RIGHTEOUS about the HYPOCRISY of the AMERICAN way of life and its DUPLICITY regarding matters of RELIGION, SEX and POLITICS. MANSON had his finger on a pulse that i would come to understand all too well living abroad and the returning stateside yearly to hear about DILUTED, PHONY and downright QUIXOTIC notions of AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM and our supposed CULTURAL and MORAL DOMINANCE on GLOBAL AFFAIRS. it remains to date an IMPORTANT and CONSEQUENTIAL album for me.
funny enough, i cam across the debut PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY (NOTHING, 1994) album a few months later while in FLORIDA (MARILYN MANSON was formed in FORT LAUDERDALE) of all places on a school trip centered around marine biology. it was a completely INCONGROUS experience listening to the EXTREME imagery and NIHILISTIC takedown of AMERICAN LIFE in tracks like "GET YOUR GUNN," "LUNCHBOX," "DOPE HAT" and "CAKE AND SODOMY" while in a scenic science camp in the FLORIDA KEYS, but that was how it went down.
i remember noticing immediately how sonically and lyrically PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY felt more CARTOONISH, less polished and more ABRASIVE than ANTICHRIST SUPERSTAR (both produced by TRENT REZNOR of NINE INCH NAILS fame). arguably this record is the CREATIVE high point of founding guitarist DAISY BERKOWITZ, whose slinky and economic riffage are a signature of this era of the band, more angular POST PUNK than grooved-out METAL that the band would later evolve into on subsequent releases. bassist TWIGGY RAMIREZ serves as a fitting counterpoint to BERKOWITZ with his propulsive sense of groove that is further reinforced by drummer GINGER FISH's off-kilter sense of meter. lastly keyboardist MADONNA WAYNE GACY is in SINGULAR form on this album, with probably more freedom on record than anytime since, as he introduces INDUSTRIAL-inflected haunting loops and vintage horror film samples that basically established the shtick for countless bands since (i'm looking right at you INSANE CLOWN POSSE).
you can see the potential the band had with PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY, which feels like a less conceptually fleshed out and sonically more SPARE version of the later ANTICHRIST SUPERSTAR. in my mind those releases are spiritually and thematically connected. as a teenager both of these records were completely EMPOWERING and served as a springboard into discovering other like-minded INDUSTRIAL acts in high school such as FRONT 242, THROBBING GRISTLE, MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT, SKINNY PUPPY, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY, MINISTRY, ATARI TEENAGE RIOT, GODFLESH, CABARET VOLTAIRE, VNV NATION and KMFDM among others. PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY is not an INDUSTRIAL record per se, but it utilizes aspects of its sound to showcase a vision of an AMERICAN CULTURE in decline by the weight of its own ARROGANCE. its almost like it foresaw the TRUMP ADMINISTRATION a decade and a half in advance.
of course i have to mention that the DISTURBING sexual predatory allegations against MARILYN MANSON the individual (as well as TWIGGY RAMIREZ) have been very DISAPPOINTING and DISILLUSIONING. MARILYN MANSON felt like an avatar for the collective id of UNBRIDLED teenage ALIENATION and INSECURITY. it felt like he was authentically channeling something DEEP and possibly TRAUMATIC through his ART, which despite its NIHILISTIC and BITING delivery was nothing if not POSITIVE and AMELIORATIVE on balance. the fact that he could have deliberately hurt so many women through his elevated status due to his ART is beyond UNCONSCIONABLE.
and SAD. and i stand with his victims. i hope he gets whats coming to him.
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