Marilyn Manson is back with a new album called Born Villain, and the first single “No Reflection” just dug itself out of a shallow grave to walk the Earth.
Manson hasn’t been gone for very long (the band’s last album, The High End of Low, came out in 2009), but it has been a while since he has been a significant part of the pop culture conversation. The last time the group’s titular singer made a big impact was with 2003’s The Golden Age of Grotesque, and even then it seemed like the seams were showing and the decline was inevitable (though it should be noted that The Golden Age of Grotesque is wildly underrated, with a number of never-were anthems like “Ka-Boom Ka-Boom”).
There was also a moment when the video for “Heart-Shaped Glasses” looked like the return of scandalous Manson, but it was processed by the online news machine in a day and pretty much never heard from again. Considering the relatively small venues booked on Marilyn Manson’s upcoming tour, they seem closer to becoming the door-to-door fear factory once lampooned in The Onion.
But is “No Reflection” the way back for Manson, both the band and the man? The guitars are still loud, the beat still propulsive, and the chorus pretty melodic. Give it a listen below.
Make no mistake: In the latter half of the ’90s into the turn of the century, Marilyn Manson was as important a pop culture icon as there was in the rock world. A lightning rod for controversy, Manson knew exactly how to manipulate both his fans and especially the media, agitating into an old-school froth seemingly every time he opened his mouth.
The band lived in a remarkable place as well, where they could simultaneously be loved by metalheads (the co-sign from Trent Reznor always helped) but also embraced wholeheartedly by MTV (the group’s video premieres were always a big deal on TRL). He always seemed to be on the cutting edge of what people were afraid of: The breakthrough album Antichrist Superstar put the devil back at the top of the charts, Mechanical Animals tapped into paranoia about technology and designer drugs, and Holy Wood attempted to create a link between religious fervor and the high school violence he was always being blamed for anyway.
The Internet seemed to have de-mystified Manson, and most of what he was doing was simply cheap parlor tricks anyway, but when was the last time a mainstream band agitated people enough with talk of drugs and the devil to force protests of their shows and schoolwide bans on their T-shirts? Or even freaked everybody out at the VMAs?
That sort of outrage used to be common, and now it seems lost to history. That’s a shame, because rock and roll is supposed to be dangerous, and if it can’t frighten parents, then what’s the point of turning the amps up to 11?
What do you think of Marilyn Manson’s new single? Does the band still mean anything in 2012, or do they function simply as a nostalgia act for aging headbangers? Find your reflection in the comments.