Born Villain, Marilyn Manson's first album since 2009's The High End of Low, marks his debut as a cheeky pop-culture gawker, a far cry from where he was just a decade and a half ago. He's not the snarling, scorched-earth God of Fuck from his '90s parent-baiting heyday anymore, but thankfully those rough edges remain on Villain. The new album exhibits a playfulness that long-term fans know he had, but had not yet integrated into the music. Lead single "No Reflection" is a ready-made radio anthem in the vein of 1996's "The Beautiful People"; elsewhere, "The Gardener" offers an expert study into the ways of modern love — or what passes for it these days — via Iggy Pop circa The Idiot. Manson has been one of the few modern artists who have grown with their audiences instead of becoming tribute acts of themselves, and the older he gets the more he keeps revealing facets to his art we would have never expected. He's one of the last living rock stars of his generation, refusing to dumb down his act like so many others, while still being able to screw with the music industry at large.
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