Take a trip down memory lane with me. The year is 1995. I’m watching MTV with my buddy and a video starts. Some clown covered in bird shit with makeup all over his face is screaming at the camera.
Friend: “Oh shit, this guy is awesome! You know them?”
Friend: “This song rules.”
Me, singing along: “...who am I to disagree?”
Friend: “I thought you said you didn’t know them? How do you know this song?”
Me: *rolls eyes*
And so began my absolute love affair with Marilyn Manson. A year later, I was hunched over a brand new CD acquisition, CD liner booklet filled with depraved, filthy images of decay, perversion, and a guy on his knees, a gas mask on his face, connected to a hose attached to another guy’s crotch. This was serious fucked-up shit. I still remember the fresh smell of that booklet, the newly-opened CD fragrance that gives me Ratatouille moments up until this very day.
A few years later, I’m standing outside my local CD purveyor in the dead of winter, freezing my ass off. My mom was with me, buying everyone around us coffee. At the front of the line, Marilyn Manson sat at a long table, face plastered in colorful makeup. Hours later, I finally get to meet my hero and all I could muster was “OhmyfuckinggodIloveyousomuch!” He signed my copy of his autobiography with a smile and nodded at me. My mom came up next with another copy to sign for my friend. “How are you today?” she asked him. He smiled at her and replied, “Very well, thank you.” And then they start chatting! Meanwhile I’m standing off to the side, aghast that Manson is getting more out of my mom and they are becoming fast friends.
Over the next few years, I don my makeup. I do my nails. I try the torn pantyhose look. I squeeze into my pleather pants. I see him in concert about 6 or 7 times. You’ve never seen me in such a frenzied state. Nothing beats it. The last time I feel such absolute fanboy love/lust, it’s 2001 (the post-Columbine Holy Wood era, i.e. his last truly great spectacle tour). And then nothing but a steady decline.
The Golden Age of Grotesque was Manson’s turning point. The last album that incorporated that insane feral energy and deviously intelligent wit. Then the drugs and relationships got the better of him and he released a trio of absolute eye-rollers, starting with the passable Eat Me, Drink Me, then the godawful High End of Low, and finally an album that I don’t even have on my “just in case” external hard drive, Born Villain. As a good fan, I never completely gave up hope, but I didn’t get those hopes up either.
And then The Pale Emperor happened.
What an album. Clocking in at a sparse 10 tracks, it’s a concise, masterful gut-punch, full of swagger, thump and enough old-school creep-atmosphere to please his die hard shock rock faithful. I never thought I’d see this day.