MARILYN MANSON- Heaven Upside Down
Marilyn Manson stumbles. If you’ve caught the news coming out of Mr Warner’s comeback tour recently you’ll already know that. But more dangerous than too-high heels or falling stage props are the blunders in Manson’s back catalogue. He has undoubtedly proven himself capable of greatness but for every ‘Antichrist Superstar’ there’s been a ‘The High End of the Low’, for every ‘Disposable Teens’ there’s, well… anything from the utterly forgettable ‘Born Villain’.
Most recently though, Manson has steadied his ship. His live performances, apparently under less narcotic influences, are drawing rave reviews and last album, ‘The Pale Emperor’, the fruit of a new working relationship with erstwhile soundtrack composer Tyler Bates, was his best in 15 years. The pressure is on ‘Heaven Upside Down’ then, but, for the most part, it does not stumble.
Opener ‘Revelation #12’ is prime Marilyn Manson. A serpentine riff, right in his wheelhouse between glam and punk, gives way to a throbbing, sleazy verse before a slick, stomping chorus and cries of ‘We’ll paint the town red” come hunting for your ears. The vocals- part creaky-door croon, part firebreathing roar- are oh so familiar but well produced and coil neatly around the music. You can already hear this song being thrashed to pieces live.
‘Tattooed in Reverse’ is the sort of mid-tempo menace Manson has made hay with for decades newly updated with delicious ear candy, ‘Say10’, maybe the most enduring thing here despite that silly title, could be an outtake from the ‘Antichrist…’ sessions, and the excellent ‘Blood Honey’ starts as a sombre lullaby before blooming into a vampire love song. In fact, Bates, back again and credited with no less than instrumentation, engineering, production, and mixing, consistently provides Manson with outstanding sonic palettes to play with. It’s actually the main man that doesn’t always deliver.
His vocals are great throughout, uniquely his and sung with gusto. He conjures some neat religious imagery (“I turn your psalms into my dirty bombs”) and knows a shout-along chorus when he writes one. But, for a man who risked appearing to behead the president in the run up to this album’s release, there’s little depth, or even shock, in his words. Look, nobody is asking Marilyn Manson to be a voice of a generation anymore, nobody is looking to the lyrics sheet of ‘Heaven Upside Down’ to solve anything, but for a writer capable of such emotional bite and scintillating social commentary, lines about fucking “broken, crazy” girls and an ode to cocaine don’t quite cut it. Also, it was probably written a year ago and there’s nothing he can do about it now but “It’s time to just kill this crowd and scream as fucking loud, fire away” could haunt the singer in a way he’s been haunted a few too many times before.
The record finishes strong. The title track could be a slick indie disco hit, like that one Dandy Warhols song, if it hadn’t been so wonderfully distorted and dragged into the dark, and ‘Threats of Romance’ is a show tune for people that hate show tunes.
Marilyn Manson can stumble then. But while it’s not as strong as his last album, ‘Heaven Upside Down’ finds rock’s weirdest superstar in a vein of form, striding confidently forward.