Since I’ve joined the staff for this site, I’ve learned so many things just by virtue of being on the official Popdose e-mail list. For instance, d’you remember that high-larious “Shoes” video from a couple of years ago? You know: You have too many shoes. SHUT UP!! Man, good times. Dig this, though — the drag-queen dude from that video is back with a new clip, for another grassroots viral sensation! And I never would’ve known ‘til I got the nice e-mail from his publicist. And without the Popdose e-mail list, I never would have heard about Jason, and the terrible thing he did with the goats — although, to be fair, I only heard that from Jeff, and I’m not entirely sure I can trust him anymore since he told me that Mishka was big in Japan, which doesn’t even make sense; I mean, yes, obviously your European of typical height is going to be comparatively bigger when surrounded by Japanese, who tend statistically to be shorter, but still, that doesn’t actually make him “big in Japan.” Anyway.
The Popdose mailing list also clued me in that Brian Warner and his popular beat combo the Marilyn Mansons have a new record coming out. Now, I admire young Brian. I’m not a superfan or anything, but you’ve got to be impressed with the way he’s overcome a host of disabilities — albinism, lazy eye, and (judging from this photograph) gynecomastia, among them — to become a big wheel in the music business. Some of the tunes are pretty catchy; I’ve always liked “The Dope Show,” especially since the kids explained to me the whole bad-means-good hip-hop slang thing; and while I’ve never seen Marilyn and the Mansons live, I’m sure they put on a show that is, indeed, “dope.”
Now, Brian gets some stick in certain quarters for his alleged devilish proclivities. I don’t know anything about that, but he is surely a devil with the ladies. He’s currently warming the Warnerschnitzel with the honeythroated singer-actress Evan Rachel Wood, no stranger to fans of this column; and at one point, young Brian was even married to Miss Dita Von Teese, who — well, I’m not sure exactly what she does for a living, actually. Let’s check the Google…
Well, now. That’s something you don’t see every day — not from that angle, anyhow. But to return to the album by Brian’s little ensemble, Marillion Mansun; it dropped last week, I’m told, but I didn’t get a chance to listen to it at the time — I was all tied up watching the new Kelly video. (That Kelly — what a hoot!) Having heard it now, it begs one important question: with all he has — fame, fortune, oodles of talent, fulfilling hobbies, and the company of many fine ladies — why is Brian Warner in such a bad mood?
In a fallen world like this one, there’s never any shortage of reasons to be bummed out; and The High End of Low does take some broad swipes at the usual follies of jingoism (“We’re From America”), banal pop culture (“Blank and White”), and religious extremism (the wonderfully-titled “Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin’-geddon”). But the real shocker here is how broken-hearted it all sounds. The songs are full of regret and depression — the mutant blues “Four Rusted Horses” even finds Brian imagining his own funeral — and it’s not hard to read between the lines. It’s no Here, My Dear — hell, it’s not even Shoot Out the Lights — but The High End of Low has all the dank, claustrophobic heartache of a rock star divorce album.
Maybe it’s that classic-rock subject matter that gives the album its classic-rock sound. While Brian’s never been shy about his debts to Bowie, High End takes the 70s pastiches further than ever. “Unkillable Monster” has flat studio drums and phase-shifted guitars straight out of the Nazareth playbook, while “Running to the Edge of the World” is a big, windswept ballad, aiming for “Wild Horses” territory. It almost works — it’s got a great sound, but the lines about beating up God and stealing His drugs seems a little silly even in context.
It’s a good thing that the audio surfaces of the disc are so relatively inviting, because the emotional undercurrents are pretty dire. There’s plenty of blame to go around in these breakup songs, and Brian doesn’t spare his own feelings. “Or else seems like a stupid fucking thing to say to someone like me,” he monotones on the electro-cabaret stomp “Wow”, acknowledging both his ex’s noxious ultimatums and his own refusal to work at the relationship. (He also admits that he has a hard time respecting a woman after he sleeps with her — Evan Rachel, sweetie, you might want to think hard about this.) It’s a fantastically bitter and unsparing song, but it also points up some of the problems of the disc — the underdeveloped melodies, the tendency to write chants rather than actual songs.
The relentless inwardness of the album is both a strength and a failing, oddly enough. On the one hand, bravo to Brian for his emotional fearlessness. But there was a time when Marilyn and His Band Of Mansons seemed to represent a new model of rock star — a satirical inversion of the teen idol, an Antichrist Superstar calculated to terrify parents and alienate critics, playing amped-up trash-pop pleasures that could never be other than guilty. But what is Brian Warner now? Just another bitter, alcoholic adulterer sitting in his bedroom, writing songs about his feelings like he was Neil Fucking Young or something. It’s a long hard road out of Hell, Brian, sure; but who’d have thought you’d end up going Hollywood?
I mean, you’ll never see Kelly selling out like that. Heh. “Shoes.” Classic!