THE QUIETUS 05.12.09

Marilyn Manson's High End Of Low Reviewed Track-By-Track
Brother John Robb explores the High End Of Low and finds that Marilyn Manson is in no danger of losing his dark crown
By John Robb

Unexpectedly mellow intro, hark! Is that an acoustic guitar or a mandolin before Manson starts singing? After a couple of minutes the track kicks in proper with some cool distorted vocals sung over heavy drums as Manson lets loose his semi-screamed, semi-sung, world-weary vocals. He sings about love - is he going lyrically soft?

Pretty As A ($)
'Pretty As A ($)' is full-on from the top. "Take it down from the inside..." croaks Manson. There are some nice rhythm changes that you can sense mosh pit action to. This album is already rocking, though the first two tracks show less of the dynamics that sometimes enhance his work. This is stripped down and dirty Manson. There is mention of swastikas. The ugliness of humanity is still a fascination for the singer, whose thing has always been reflecting the ugliness of the slavering media back at them. It's a simple but effective trick, and Manson plays there game well, always gaining the upper hand. The track is a sneering high IQ rush before collapsing into a weird splodgy bass rumble that outros the song.

Leave a Scar
A quirky industrial riff bounces in as the pace is switched. There are no real surprises on the album so far but it's always a relief when an artist like Manson keeps it dark. "You're not afraid of getting hurt, I'm not afraid of how much I'm going to hurt you" he intones with hints of S&M or emotional cruelty. 'Whatever doesn't kill you... leaves a scar' he sneers in that trademark croak. This one could be the single but I imagine those cowards at er, 'alternative' radio backing off from the heart of darkness that Manson occupies- their boundaries are defined by Coldplay and not stadium acts like Manson.

Four Rusted Horses
Drop down further for some stripped down bluesy acoustic before the pounding back beat arrives with some gutter poetry: "everyone will come to my funeral / I will make sure I stay dead". This is the one for the mobile phones to flicker in the night air in some enormodrome as the Manson live theatre e experience trawls the world. For some reason I'm getting a Doors alert here and it make you realise that Manson occupies that same space as that held by Morrison's droogs in the late 60. They too were dark leather-clad bizarros dealing in red velvet romance and the sex and death trip. The Doors pretty well invented this, and there have been several occupiers of the skull-encrusted throne since then. At their best, like Manson they play that game of provoking the authorities with a stick, then sucker punching with a an artful intelligence and unexpected wit.

Classic Manson, from the bouncing groove, to the snarled vocals, the killer chorus, the dirt, the grime and the filth. 'Arma-Goddamn-Mutherfuckin-Geddon' is one of those simple grooves that he does so well. The song mentions the word 'fuck' a lot and it's got the same glam rock stomp (like the Glitter band on steroids groove) that 'Disposable Teens' had. It also has the descending avalanche of a chorus, this has got to be the single. It's got a great speaker-to-speaker chunk of weirdness in the middle where your head explodes. The song seems to be Manson sings about his dark soul and depression. This would be the top ten hit if it didn't say "fuck" so much! Top tune with glam, Adam Ant drums in the middle and "Heys" in the chorus...but then glam rock always had a dark heart. Why is this not the first track on the album? The grinding swagger would really set the mood.

Blank and White
I was waiting for the word "apocalypse", and it finally turns up on 'Blank and White'. A twisted acoustic blues riff rides roughshod underneath. There's a world weariness to the song that might suggest it's about the inanity of being on the road, as the author sings about "stupid teenage girls" and "sell your hate" in a great sing-along chorus that underlines the song's cynicism.

Running to the Edge of the World
Wow, curveball alert. An acoustic guitar is strummed gently as Manson croons over the top. It's a big rock ballad, but of course it's got blackened and charred core. There's a dollop of Bowie in here, the 70s out-of-space cadet Bowie who dominated that decade. The unlikely big rock ballad crossover hit? The second single off the album. He even sings falsetto in the middle, but it's still all about death and destruction. The bizarre change in style makes this one of the unlikely album highlights.

I Want to Kill You Like They Do In The Movies
The nine-minute epic is a bass-driven neo-soundtrack sprawl. It sounds like two basses at once which, for all those who believe that the bass guitar is the greatest of all instruments, makes this a real treat.'I Want to Kill You Like They Do In The Movies' is a atmospheric workout with lots of space, it's kind of like the genius Bauhaus epic 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' in its sense of dubbed out space. Manson's vocal booms around the ether in reverb weirdness. This takes me back to the early 80s, the weird mish mash of the crossover between goth and post punk - a period written out of history with the post punks getting all the attention. The equally experimental proto goth bands like Killing Joke and Bauhaus created equally bizarre new sonic soundscapes. Yet they were omitted because they dressed up, wore make-up and girls wanted to fuck them. I'm getting bored of the re-writes of the soundtrack to my youth! The outro is a great endless bass burp groove, one of those three note chugs as Warner screams about killing himself over and over again. Hypnotic.

Some industrial grinding and clunking noises... an Iggy in Berlin handclap... we are now in some freaky industrial disco territory. This is very Iggy; Iggy when he swerved and went industrial on The Idiot 'Wow' drips decadence, Bowie and Iggy in the Berlin snow toying with Kraftwerk and new disco. I wonder who listens to Marilyn Manson records now? Is it still the rock kids who hang around the city centre parks? Is he too old for them? Does he rock enough? He's very experimental and takes risks like on 'Wow'. Has he moved too far away from their world or does he still hook into the teenage angst at 40?

Wight Spider
'Wight Spider' drives along with a bass line that sounds like it was borrowed from everyone's favourite uber-Viking Peter Hook- that kind of snaking, one fingered, minor key thing. Of course Joy Division arguably set the precedent for goth itself, updating the Doors template into the post punk apocalypse. Marilyn Manson rocks up the sinuous bass line thing into a screeching, screaming melodrama.

Unkillable Monster
The layers of noise are stripped down to a drum groove and genteel arpeggio for 'Unkillable Monster'. There's lots of personal pain going on throughout this tainted love song. It sounds like the tattooed one has got a bit of a broken heart, this is the kind of stripped down verse/heavy chorus thing that Rammstein have been hooking onto on their later albums. It's a fitting link as Rammstein are perhaps Manson's closest fellow travellers. Both fill stadiums with their sly, witty, malevolent anthems. Rammstein have a new album out in the autumn. It could be one of the year's best releases as the German band are currently at the top of their game.

We're From America
It's a great title and you know that the tall one is looking for lyrical trouble. A weird reverbed industrial drum sound starts the track off before the song kicks in: "We're from America / Where we eat our young / Where Jesus was born / Where they let you come in their faces!" This is Manson at his very best with funny, pithy put downs of the American dream. This is the mirror held up to all that is ugly about his home nation. Perhaps the album's greatest moment, this one will be rocking the rock clubs for the next couple of years...

I Have to Look Up Just To See Hell
Of course, as we all know, Manson is the antichrist so it's no surprise to hear him singing a track with a title like this. Another maggot-infested ride into the trough of melancholy.

Into the Fire
Another dramatic neo-ballad, 'Into The Fire' rolls in with piano and, gasp! an orchestra. It's like Manson's 'Imagine' but it doesn't lull you into a false sense of security- there are still billowing clouds of gloom, and it all sounds as if it should be shoehorned into the next Tim Burton gothic horror masterpiece. There is something quite 70s about the song - possibly a hint of the great Mott the Hoople when Ian Hunter sung his ace weary ballads. Manson has always been hooked into his glam rock and there plenty of references to that throughout this album.

Hark at that descending riff like 'Dear Prudence', which became a goth fave after Siouxsie reconstituted it for her biggest hit. This has lying-in-bed, fuck-everything sulkiness, the sort of clever wander into the heart of darkness that the Manics explore at their best. '15' drools with its own lethargic hatred.

Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon (Teddy Bears Remix)
The album ends with a revisit remix of the earlier 'Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon'- another one of those swashbuckling Manson romps. The remix really underlines another of those disco meets glam swagger things that he specialises in - with loads of swearing. It seems like every time Manson gets close to writing a potential hit record he peppers it with liberal use of the F word like Gordon Ramsey in front a TV camera but with lot more talent. "First you try to fuck and then you try to eat it..." he stomps through the dirty disco chorus. It's also got one of those chants sung by a choir of strident women, and makes for a great end to another great album. Marilyn Manson, whether he likes it or not, is the king of the Goth scene, its most recognisable and bankable star in the scene that no-one will admit to liking. He also knows the number one rule of great music - good taste is the enemy of the revolution...