I was in high school when Marilyn Manson's Antichrist Superstar came out, and yeah, I played it until everyone around me begged me to stop. Though I've grown to appreciate deeper and better artists, Mr. Warner has always had a place in my heart for introducing me to a darker world.
I still think he's highly underrated as a lyricist. He's quite gifted with the odd turn of phrase, at least the equivalent of Axl Rose, and his showmanship is undeniable. That being said, he's often sewn onto the goth scene like Belial gets sewn back onto Duane at the end of Basket Case.
I've argued before about his inclusion under our little black parasol, and mostly I get gnashing teeth in response. However, I would put forth that as a Reznor protégé his credentials check out, and that many of his tracks, particularly off of Mechnical Animals, fit perfectly as modernist goth tunes.
Plus, I have never seen any goth scene cooler than the faux-goth gangsta thing he pulled in the "Tainted Love" video. But I knew I'd feel more comfortable if I had some experts, or at least a few people who were still awake and listening to the Mission, weigh in on the subject.
I summoned the Gothic Council to pass judgment on Mr. Manson. Joining us this week are DJs Martin Oldgoth and Regen Robinson, fashion designer Batty, living historian Morrighanne Burns, blogger at Night's Plutonion Shore Sarah Fanning, co-founder of the Age of Decay festival Alethea Carr, author of the Encyclopedia Gothica Liisa Ladouceur, and artist Darla Teagarden.
Martin Oldgoth: Nope. Just can't accept him in my gang. Reznor (in my opinion) wrote one very average album and went downhill fast when he chose the irritating shouty, loud guitar shit as a career path.
I rank both alongside Rammstein as being one of the primary causes for the death of the goth scene as we knew it, paving the way for people to accept just any old crap as being "gothic." There was no need to ignore the bands putting out genuinely good music at the same time in favor for industrial-lite, metal. Kill it with fire.
Batty: Gotta agree with Martin. Kill it with fire. I also think Reznor wrote a couple mediocre albums that were really catchy and while they did suck a lot of people into the scene that moved on to liking better stuff, he and Manson also sucked in a lot of the people that killed the beauty of the scene as well and devolved into things that appeal to the lowest common denominator.
I won't deny that Manson is a brilliant businessman who knows how to sell himself; however, the ability to make money doesn't make one spooky. Does not like. I like dark and mysterious and the delicate beauty in the dark in our scene, not the grotesque route he takes.
Martin Oldgoth: Yeah, got to give him that much. He's a manipulator, all right.
Batty: Also, If we want to go for grotesque and shocking but in a pretty way, Sopor Aeternus hands-down kicks Manson's butt in any goth brawl of the weird.
Morrighanne Burns: I can see where Martin is coming from, but Antichrist Superstar was a good album, especially from a DJ point of view. "Beautiful People" filled the floor every time I played the bugger, and it is good to have a dance to, but that might be because the drums remind me of listening to glam and New Romantic stuff when I was a child.
I prefer some of his earlier stuff. "Sweet Dreams" is an inspired cover and "Lunchbox" makes me smile when I'm on the bus listening to my iPod.
Sarah Fanning: I certainly don't classify Manson as goth. I agree with the dark glam nu-metal classification. And I agree that he is a marketing genius. I also dislike most of his rabid fans.
That said, I do enjoy some of his songs once in a while, and I really appreciated his response to the Columbine shooting and being accused as a contributing factor to the awful incident.
Alethea Carr: My wrath and resentment of Marilyn Manson -- and the effects he has had on our little society, the way he at the height of his popularity caused us to be perceived, and the misguided attitudes of the vast majority of his young fans -- are so profound I can't even talk about it. I get all stabby inside.
Morrighanne Burns: After Manson and Reznor had their bitchfight fisticuff, Manson went downhill. I stopped listening once Twiggy departed as he was my boy totty. I wouldn't class him as goth, more a dark nu-metal, of which there were a few bands at the same time like Rammstein who fit the same category.
I've read his book and I don't think his intention was to be goth, he was more of a metal kid who went for the Alice Cooper style of shock-rock. So no, not goth.
Regen Robinson: I have to disagree in a way, although I never really liked any of Marilyn Manson musically. I think the few artists who achieve a mainstream status defiantly kill the beauty of the scene, but give younger goths some variety that they might not find.
Kind of like a gateway drug into the better music. The Internet has changed this a lot, but almost all commercial U.S. radio stations stick to a certain format...which definitely is not goth.
Batty: I definitely always saw him as dark glam-metal more than anything. I don't think he intended to grab the goth crowd like he did, but when he saw the money, he didn't shun it.
I never did listen to commercial radio, even when I was younger. I was listening to my friends' older sisters and brothers' glam tapes or New Wave stuff. I guess I got into goth entirely differently than a lot of people do, the old-school way of stumbling upon it (via compilations, etc.). Again, agreed, he and Reznor were a gateway drug, but still wouldn't call them goth, and they also opened the gates for a lot of undesirables.
Regen Robinson: I actually did stumble upon it by commercial radio, amazingly! There was this great program in Detroit that played at maybe 3 a.m. one night a week. I have a feeling most young people in my city were not as diligent at searching this out as I was, though.
Darla Teagarden: Manson is a successful commercial pop-rock singer with black nails. If that's a good or bad thing, I guess it depends who you ask. He is not a gothic artist. That's not to say goth can't be commercial ever, it's just, he's not it.
Liisa Ladouceur: I gotta say I find the vitriol for the guy, his art and his fans is as immature and misguided as the "undesirable" mall-goths that offend your sensibilities so. It's like he personally kicked all your puppies or something. If you don't like his radio-friendly rock riffs, fine. If you find him pompous, fine. (Because Andrew Eldritch and Peter Murphy aren't?)
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But to hate him because millions of young people related to his catchy songs about standing up for yourself against hypocritical parental, governmental and religious authority and thought the uniform for that was Tripp pants from Hot Topic like as if this is the greatest blight upon gothdom ever?
Holy elitism. If you know who you are, and what goth means to you, what difference does a mass influx of new kids make?
Manson's commercial success didn't kill the "beauty" of anything. It put a skinny white guy who wears corsets, latex and black nail polish -- and some gloriously gothic grand guignol videos -- onto MTV. I'll take that over auto-tuned pop tarts any day. If he's guilty of any crimes, it's not putting out a decent record since 2003.
Marilyn Manson plays with Pretty Reckless Sunday, May 13, at House of Blues.