Tuesday, May 26, 2009
THE HIGH END OF LOW
When you get right down to it, "The High End of Low" is a breakup record, a mournful document of Marilyn Manson's divorce from burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese, the Angelina Jolie of people who wear tassels for a living. Divorce may have been the best thing to have happened to Manson, who hasn't been a truly provocative Public Enemy since the waning days of the Clinton administration, if he ever was, and has lately been in dire need of something else to be morose about.
"Low" contains plenty of Manson's usual, conservative-talk-radio-baiting songs about third-rail topics such as abortion and war and the deficiencies of patriotism, most of which place him at the center of a cultural debate that has long since moved on. "Wanna be a martyr/Don't wanna be a victim," sings Manson, sounding as if he'd actually like that very much, on the halfhearted "We're From America," a virtual Mad Lib of 1998 hot-button issues.
But the best tracks here are of the "Thanks for ripping my heart out and stomping on it" variety: The slow, atmospheric tour de creepy "I Want to Kill You Like They Do in the Movies" is about how Manson would really like to stab you, except he's in love with you, too, so you can see his dilemma. "WOW" is a less stabby version of same.
Whip-smart intelligence and a staggering lack of self-awareness have always co-existed on Manson discs, and this one is no different. These days he has to labor much too hard to be a provocateur. He doesn't seem to realize it, but he's much more interesting, much more human, as a spurned lover than he is as a fusty culture war relic, rattling his chains.
Marilyn Manson performs at Nissan Pavilion Aug. 9.
-- Allison Stewart
DOWNLOAD THESE: "Leave a Scar," "WOW"