There was a time when Marilyn Manson seemed to be one of the most important performers on the planet. He had middle America rocked (like pretty much any metal band you’d care to mention). He was named as one of the causes of the Columbine shootings, gave great interviews, and he made some pretty damn fine records too.
Several years down the road since Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals, Manson has once again attempted a shift in image. No longer the self styled God Of Fuck, or androgynous alien with no genitals to speak of at all (something that made the initial God Of Fuck moniker seem rather a hollow boast) things have changed a little bit.
Manson has become a little more human. Eat Me, Drink Me is a record made by a man recovering from a divorce (Manson’s marriage to burlesque star Dita Von Tisse having ended after just a year.) So despite there being a few shock tactics here and there, (the album’s title refers to a cannibal who ate a willing victim a few years back), many of these songs refer to Manson’s turbulent year.
In addition, this is pretty close to being a solo album having been written, performed and produced by Manson and guitarist/bassist Tom Sk�ld. Lyrically too, things are far more personal. Lines like “I should have picked the photograph, it lasted longer than you” get straight to the heart of the matter, barely masking Manson’s pain caused by recent events. It could be argued that Eat Me, Drink Me is really Brian Warner’s album rather than Marilyn Manson’s as it is far more human, world weary and introspective than normal.
The problem is that Eat Me, Drink Me just isn’t a very good record. With the exception of Heart Shaped Glasses there is little here that really grabs at you like a cannibal with a bad case of the munchies. Its death march funk immediately singles it out as being radio friendly and the obvious single on the album. Unfortunately it is remixed as bonus tracks at the end, and while the idea of an “inhuman remix” sounds thrilling, the reality is that the one standout track on the record has been turned into the worst kind of plastic dance.
Things start out promisingly however, with If I Was Your Vampire, as moody and Gothic sounding track as we’ve come to expect from Manson. So while a spidery guitar lick crawls across your neck you get to take in images of blood stained sheets and eating ashes. Splendid stuff.
Then comes Putting Holes in Happiness, which is as close to a ballad as Manson has ever come. Awful sounding drums and attempts at grandeur fall tragically flat while Manson’s voice doesn’t really carry off emotion particularly well.
Earlier albums sounded claustrophobic and genuinely unsettling. Eat Me, Drink Me sounds tired and uninspired. The riffs do little to motivate, the production leaves a lot to be desired (although leaving things in like pickup noise at the end of solos is clever way of showing just how “authentic” this collection is) and too often there are really, really bad guitar solos leaping out of middle eights.
What made Manson so intriguing was his otherworldliness: now the mask has slipped a little and he has attempted to make something directly from the heart it somehow seems plain wrong. Hell, he even looks like an upset teenager on the cover. It’s a long way from the perverted kids’ entertainer that graced the cover of Smells Like Children, or the Space Manson of the Mechanical Animals era. Now he looks like one of the kids that buy his albums and not the supernatural Rock Star that he once was.
The problem is that with while the last few tumultuous years might have provided plenty of inspiration for him, he has spectacularly failed to make an album that has any bite. They say when you hit rock bottom the only way is up, but for the moment Manson continues to bump along at ground zero.