MARILYN MANSON Life is a cabaret, old chum.
by Hannah Levin

Marilyn Manson

Sun July 13

Schnitzer Hall

I discovered Marilyn Manson last year via the library's broad selection of check-outable entertainment. I didn't know much about him, other than the fact he had sex with foxy, dangerous girls like Rose McGowan and that the hipster party line was to dismiss him as Trent Reznor's lapdog or an Alice Cooper rip-off. I also vaguely recalled feeling relieved watching him perform on the MTV Video Music Awards a few years prior. The seizure-inducing sounds of the Backstreet Boys were everywhere, as was the duplicitous, saccharine sexuality of Britney Spears and brain-numbing misogyny of Fred Durst, so when I saw Mr. Manson dripping with transsexual glamour in a silver, ass-less bodysuit while an exploding neon sign spelled out "DRUGS" behind him, I felt comforted. At least someone was still telling kids to screw with conventional gender roles and get high.

When my librarian handed me a copy of God Is in the T.V. , a collection of Manson's first dozen videos, she inadvertently launched an obsession on par with my initial discovery of heavy metal. Back in 1984, when my neighbor bought a copy of Mötley Crüe's Too Fast for Love, the block's other budding rockers and I immediately began playing the damn thing with such frequency I'd start to twitch if I hadn't heard "Live Wire" by noon each day. And after watching Marilyn prance around in ostrich feathers screaming "Rock Is Dead" and posing luridly with his dick tucked between his legs, shrieking about forging the "Long Hard Road out of Hell," I was hooked in the exact same way.

From a purely musical standpoint, it's not surprising he pushed all my buttons. The melodic chunkiness of (now departed) Twiggy Ramirez's bass lines took me straight back to the authoritative throb of Cliff Burton on Metallica's Ride the Lightning; Manson's lyrics about gleeful drug use and depraved sexual antics sounded like what Axl Rose wished he could have written after Appetite for Destruction; and of course there was all the aesthetic gender-bending that makes perverted feminists feel so at home.

Luckily, the library carries his entire back catalog, so I didn't have to regress even further by shoplifting my copies of Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood. However, I did have to awkwardly explain to my coworker, "Yes, that is a Marilyn Manson action figure on my desk." I'm not really ashamed, per se, but I know my fandom isn't particularly cool--or common, for that matter.

So one year later, I found myself sitting in my friend's New York apartment, attempting to unearth why I had such an immediate and visceral response to Manson. We turned that question over for hours, but it wasn't until the plane ride home that it finally dawned on me: Manson was the perfect bridge between my teenage metal days and my adult gravitation toward more cerebral, progressive, and socially conscious artists.

The thick, clanging guitars and disturbing, violent imagery in Manson's songs are highly reminiscent of the best moments of early Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, but Manson's articulate, self-aware stance on sexual politics, naturally Nietzschean posture, and collaborative endeavors with subversive artists like filmmaker Gasper Noe and painter Gottfried Helnwein (with whom he designed the set pieces for this tour) make him much better company for Gore Vidal than Rikki Rachtman. Manson might have played that Mötley Crüe record as much as I did, but he chose hard rock as his medium because he knew it was the most dramatic way to communicate thoughtfully to a wide, youthful audience. He hasn't compromised his love of dirty decadence for his intellect, and both components rest comfortably in his persona and show brightly in his work. And I'm excited for this week's show as only a teenage rocker could be.