Tidal Catalog #32: Marilyn Manson

Introduction: For those of you that have stumbled across this website and are interested in reading about my trek through the universe of the Tidal streaming service, let me tell you a bit about what I did. Back in 2016 I thought it would be kind of cool to listen to an artist’s catalog from start to finish and rank them from best to worst. After all, who doesn’t like a good list? I thought I might do a few of them and see what happened, hoping it would introduce me to records that were foreign to me in the arsenal of an artist I was familiar with. I also thought that it would be pretty cool to get out of the “one off” mode of listening to a new record, years after the previous one, in order to get a true sense of how the artist matured over time. Fast forward to June of 2019 and 250 catalogs later, I ended the trek. I posted these all on Facebook over the years as they were completed but I’m going to move them all over here, starting with #1, in order to expand them out a bit more. Facebook doesn’t exactly allow for too many details.

As with all my catalogs, to be considered in the ranking, an album has to meet certain criteria:

  • The artist must actually perform on 80% of the tracks (soundtrack and rap provision)
  • No compilations of previous released material will be included.
  • However, compilations of previously recorded material will be included if they are remixes, bonus tracks, outtakes… mostly music that hasn’t been part of a main release before.
  • The album must have been released officially and within the realm of the label that the artist would have been on at the time or official releases posthumously (normally applies to a slew of live records)
  • Any EPs must contain new new music and be relevant to the catalog, not be more like a single with a b-side or two.

Entrance Point: Everything. I am a fan, I had listened to everything and I did this pretty short catalog simply because I was in the mood for some rock that I was familiar with at the time.

All albums ranked on a 10 point scale:

  • The Pale Emperor (9.5)

If you scroll down and look at my ranking real quick, you’ll see Marilyn Manson’s last three albums at the top of my list. I’ve always been a fan, never because of his controversy but always because he made music that didn’t sound like anyone else but I started really thinking he made great records when he stopped trying so hard to be controversial and simply wrote great songs. But notice the first two records here as the music was written by guitarist Tyler Bates, who was then a member of Manson’s band. After the band stopped having real hits and radio play for their songs, the music got a bit mellower and darker. No longer was it just straight loud industrial rock with a built in shock factor. There are hard rockers for sure but the vast majority of his tunes are dark, slow and heavy but his voice also works well with acoustic tracks, like the three you get on the deluxe version of this record. For every song that sounds like a classic version of the band (“Slave Only Dreams to Be King”) there’s three that sound much darker (“Killing Strangers”, “Warship My Wreck” “Cupid Carries a Gun”). And now both sounds really interest me but more so, the new updated, slower version. These are well crafted songs, even if some of Manson’s wordplay is a bit silly in the end. The band has had the same general feel for the last four or so records now and Bates only contributed to two of them but it’s a partnership that I wish Manson would get back to, as the two of them together make the band sound better than ever.

  • Heaven Upside Down (9)

Now of course above I say that I like the darker side of Manson more now and then he goes ahead and creates a pretty rockin’ record with Bates writing the music again. I was hesitant at first, solely based on the title of the first single, “We Know Where You Fucking Live,” which sounds cheesy on its own. But the track is catchy as hell and contains what I think is one of Manson’s best lines in “What’s a nice place like this doing around people like us?” The almost NIN atmosphere of “Say10” is really intriguing and for some reason, my mind is so clouded by how good this record is, that I almost completely forgive him for his pseudo-rapping on “Tattooed In Reverse,” (but I did take off a little for it). But other than being louder than The Pale Emperor, it’s got a similar vibe to the previous album thanks to the band remaining the same, so there’s very little not to like about this disc, including the eight-minute trippy “Saturnalia.”

  • Born Villain (9)
  • Antichrist Superstar (8.5)

So here’s where I go back to the hit period of his career and looking back, it’s still pretty amazing to me that a band like Marilyn Manson had hits of any sorts. But the MTV generation made stars out of so many artists that would never be known if they started out now. And while I said above that I really like their newer, darker music, that doesn’t mean that this early industrial rock side isn’t great either. I loved the band’s earliest records as well but they aren’t quite as consistent from start to finish as the later albums and at 16 tracks long, inconsistencies are bound to happen. The drawback to this record is just that, it’s looooooong…. but is had the great single “The Beautiful People” on it and blistering tracks like “Irresponsible Hate Anthem” and “Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World” plus one of my favorite non-singles of the band, “Angel with the Scabbed Wings,” but back here in 1996, I don’t think anything but the rock tracks worked. Darker tunes like the title track and “Minute of Decay” don’t have the same impact on my as the same type of track on the newer records. In the end though, I ate this up when it was released and I still play “The Beautiful People” in bars now and again and scare the shit out of women and children everywhere.

  • Mechanical Animals (8)

Love the record or hate the record, Mechanical Animals is without a doubt the record that changed Marilyn Manson’s musical path forever. After hitting the world over the head with the industrial grind of Antichrist Superstar, Manson put out a hard rockin’ glam record and it was clear right from the first single, “The Dope Show” that this was going to be a different record. It was a pretty bold move for a guy that was a pretty big star at this point and had only two records under his belt. But it set his path forward to be a guy/band that might actually be taken seriously down the road. Could it have derailed him? For damn sure. But talent outshines all. At the time of release in 1998 it seemed like a weird call but looking back now, if he had made another Antichrist Superstar, he might not be around today. Manson adjusted his style to the musical climate at the time. And now more than 20 years later, it seems like a pretty genius move. Change your game up at your peak because you know without a doubt, that people will listen to the album no matter what. And if the fan base stays, then you’ve been able to do what you’ve set out to do – remain relevant. While true hit songs (not counting rock charts but true Billboard Hot 100 songs) aren’t really in the cards any more, Manson still draws a crowd and I attribute that to this turning point. Even my wife (who still likes some rock music but is heavily into country now) has “Coma White” on her iPod and not by accident.

  • The Golden Age of Grotesque (8)
  • Eat Me, Drink Me (8)
  • Portrait of an American Family (8)

1994, man. I listened to the hell out of this record. And I’m sure without a shadow of a doubt that at first it was due to the shock rock of a song like “Cake and Sodomy” which lead off the record. But I have always stuck with records because they contain quality tunes – no other reason. And I still like this record. Part of the fun of listening to catalogs in chronological order is that by itself, I might have ranked this album higher but in the grand scheme of what the group put out afterwards, Portrait… certainly doesn’t hold up as well. Musically, it’s got that early industrial grind to it and lots and lots of audio samples as intros/outros to songs but it also is certainly rawer than anything afterwards and Trent Reznor helping to produce the record certainly put the focus on the grinding industrial notes rather than the hooks and melodies that future albums would have. Overall, most of the songs are still really good but in 2020 some of the tracks sound like shock for shock value only while the rest of the catalog sounds like they took the time to write better songs. It’s a product of the time and environment for sure.

  • Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (7.5)
  • The High End of Low (7)
  • The Last Tour on Earth (6)
  • Remix & Repent (3)
  • Smells Like Children (2)

Summary: 13 albums, average 7.2

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