Music

Marilyn Manson: Born Villain

Populist, processed, and weirdly conservative, Marilyn Manson's eighth studio album is just plain bland. It proves, if nothing else, that Manson is no longer top dog in the controversy department.


Marilyn Manson

Born Villain

Label: Cooking Vinyl
US Release Date: 2012-05-01
UK Release Date: 2012-05-01
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Let’s face it, Marilyn Manson would probably be pretty pretentious if his music wasn’t so gosh-darned populist. He’d probably be really transgressive, too, if using transgressive pop music to piss off mom and pop didn’t seem so awfully old fashioned these days. Indeed, while Manson is clearly very articulate and intelligent, his whole aesthetic has always seemed all too carefully styled for maximum media attention. But, then again, if it looks and sounds good, so what? His now infamous ghoulish, androgynous, look is borrowed from bits and bobs of nightmares and New York club kids, coloured in with the make-up kit of Norwegian black metal bands. And he ties that look with a correspondingly abrasive sound, influenced equally by stomping 1970s glam rock and doom-laden industrial music. So even though he’s always managed to express his musical and artistic aims rather well, maybe it just doesn’t really cut it anymore, musically or artistically.

But the medium is the message; so does that mean that Manson has been doubly guilty of selling himself short? Do we not have to ask whether he is still, after 15 years in the public eye, trying to define himself in opposition to an unreflective and conformist status quo to which he himself contributes? If this is the case, and if he knows better (and we all suspect that he does), then why does he continue to make the same old angry, raucous teen scene pop music?

Celebrity is still the issue of the day on Born Villain. The record is accompanied by a short film directed by Shia LaBeouf (yes, him from the Transformers franchise and, er, kids’ TV show Even Stevens), and a coffee table book of LaBeouf’s photographs. And then there’s the album’s bonus track, a cover of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” that features Johnny Depp, another one of Manson’s celebrity pals.

But doesn’t all of this just prove that all those issues that have been so central to the Marilyn Manson agenda – our culture of fear and self-loathing, our false consumer choices, the emptiness of other peoples’ celebrity status – have turned into something to which Manson knowingly contributes without apology? But, golly, it would be naïve of us to have expected more from him. Marilyn Manson is not an artist, otherwise he’d do a little bit more than just draw our attention to all these problems. Nor is Marilyn Manson a revolutionary, that much is obvious. It turns out that he’s just another rock star.

According to Manson, Born Villain is supposed to be a death metal album. It’s nothing of the sort. Every single track is mid-tempo. Every single track is mid-length. Every single track is middle-of-the-road – the sound of a middle-aged shock rocker long past his creative, controversial, and commercial peak trying to drag his the ball-and-chain of his career along as he trudges over the hill. Sadly, it’s all rather predictable. He just doesn’t seem scary or dangerous anymore. The song titles have all the poetic subtlety of an angry teenager’s secret diary: “The Flowers of Evil”, “Children of Cain”, “Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day”; or, in the case of “Overneath the Path of Misery”, they sound like that same teenager has started getting into prog-rock.

And the songs themselves just seem so uninspired. Opener “Hey, Cruel World” sets the template. The guitars grind, the drums give off a series of processed pops, Manson’s vocals are digitally distorted and drawled. This formula is then copied and pasted into everything that follows, from the cod sadomasochism of “Pistol Whipped” right through to closer “Breaking the Same Old Ground”, which would be amusingly self-aware if we could find a single trace of irony.

It all drags on and on to the point that it becomes difficult to tell when one song ends and another begins. It’s a shame, because then it becomes quite difficult to say anything about Born Villain, let alone to point out its peaks and troughs. The only thing that’s really noticeable about it is how overproduced it all is, and how awfully expensive it all sounds. Born Villain is very obviously Marilyn Manson’s mid-life crisis album: a garish and empty symbol of his rock star status. It’s not brutal and it’s definitely not villainous.

4

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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