Often simply dismissed as a shock rocker of dubious talent, a drug-addled maniac with socialistic visions, evil incarnate, or the leader of a cabal of doomed, youthful minions, Lest We Forget: The Best of Marilyn Manson reveals many interesting facets of the controversial artist. For the same reason that no one goes to a KISS concert because of the music, Manson has amassed a legion of devout fans with his shocking video and stage antics. But if all the theatrics and demonic facade are stripped away, what remains at the core is a compelling collection of social satire that is just a modern-day form of rebellion. It is not much different than what the kids had fifty years ago with Bill Haley and the Comets or Chuck Berry. Okay, so the demon-eyed Manson is not exactly the Chuck Berry of his generation - but he is a musician with a mission, a keen sense of observation, and a devilish sense of humor - hence the name Marilyn Manson. After all, he reminds us, we’re all stars in the dope show.
Like many of the tracks on Lest We Forget, “Love Song” begins as a sort of alt-pop ballad, before erupting into a full-blown, rage-fueled anthem. Manson’s vocals range from a rather harmonious croon to a gut retching scream. Though his voice is heavily altered by means of studio effect, the fury is pure, unadulterated, and obvious. “mOBSCENE” displays the double-edged sword of self-loathing - the desire to be a part of something, even a mob. “You came to see the mob scene. I know it isn’t your scene. It’s better than a sex scene.” The track’s ingenious irony comes in the form of a choir of kids wryly chanting: “Be obscene. Be obscene baby, not heard.” “Fight Song” is an all-out ranting middle finger to the establishment, which urges followers to stand up for their own beliefs - or to believe in nothing. “I’m not a slave to a god that doesn’t exist. I’m not a slave to a world that doesn’t give a shit.” “The Dope Show,” simply put, is a techno masterpiece. The beat and lyrics are solid gold, and Manson’s delivery is at its hauntingly hypnotic best. “This is the New Shit” is as bold and self-effacing as a song can get. Manson knows he’s treading old ground, but he also knows he’s just giving the people what they want, and he’s unabashedly letting us all in on the joke. “Disposable Teens” is an angry reflection on the childhood that Manson reviles. “Lunch Box,” “Tourniquet,” and “The Beautiful People” are straight-up metal songs that would be well-placed in Metallica’s repertoire - save the delivery and production values which reinforce the fact that they are the spawns of Manson. And “Long Hard Road Out of Hell” reveals that the supreme gothic one is not unlike most of us: “I want to live, I want to love, but it’s a long, hard road out of hell.” Who can argue with those sentiments?
| But unlike the majority of today’s music, at least the songs are evocative of something…|
Manson is dead on target with his sinister remakes of 80s techno-pop hits such as The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” and Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.” A Frankenstein-like scientist tinkering with his monsters, he has taken songs that were Top 40 staples and infused the creations with a whole new and darker life. Like witches fussing over a bubbling cauldron of discontent, Manson and his spooky cohorts formulate an interesting and irresistible blend of metal and techno, marching to an eerie drum rhythm that recalls visions of goose-stepping Germans. But unlike the majority of today’s music, at least the songs are evocative of something. Not every song is inspired; there are throwaway tracks, but the majority of Lest We Forget is powerful and involving.
Sure the packaging is shocking, revolting, and something even the most liberal rock ‘n’ roll parents would frown upon - but Lest We Forget is, by far, a more deserved greatest hits release than Britney Spears’ album of the same claim. Perhaps the most shocking thing people can learn about Manson, who was born Brian Warner, is that he is a well thought-out individual with a genuine genius for marketing and a flair for style. He has turned a seemingly one-trick pony into a decade-old career thoroughbred that shows no sign of slowing down before reaching the gates of hell. While I’m not so sure about the Antichrist moniker Warner has been saddled with, Lest We Forget proves that Marilyn Manson is undeniably a superstar.