The world was frightened by Marilyn Manson back in 1996 after the release of the (in)famous “Antichrist Superstar” and expectation was set high for their next release. “Mechanical Animals” showed a different face of Marilyn Manson and take the world by surprise once again. Marilyn Manson had “sold out”? Some old-time fans were dissapointed by the more glam rock oriented sound and less aggressive approach of the album, some consider it even radio-friendly, still, “Mechanical Animals” contains music far more complex than most of his work. Inspired by 1970s style, Bowie-esque glam rock and borrowing both from Roxy Music and T. Rex, Manson delivered a rock opera concept album and the second installment in a trilogy that was started with “Antichrist Superstar” and was closed by “Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)” and as it was later explained, it was released backward.
Manson takes on two roles, being a substance addicted glam rocker and a gender ambiguous Alien called OmÄ“ga who, much like David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, falls down to earth, is captured, placed with a band called The Mechanical Animals and turned into a rock star product. Manson’s other role is that of Alpha who’s acting as OmÄ“ga’s foil and his emotions have only begun seeping back.
Musically the album is less heavy and juggling between glam rock and power electronic outfit, some of the songs might contains “lighter” melodies and even warmer keys, Manson still remains gloomy and raised lot of controversies.
Interscope’s promotion of the album was massive, including an enormous billboard of singer Manson as an androgynous extraterrestrial over Times Square, and repeated appearances on MTV and other networks to promote the album and the single “The Dope Show”.
The controversial album cover art has won critical acclaim and numerous awards. The infamous photo depicts Manson as an androgynous naked figure with breasts, six fingers and airbrushed genitalia and it is the brainchild of New York City-based long-time Manson photographer Joseph Cultice. It is also featured in Grant Scott’s book “The Greatest Album Covers of All Time.”
As early as August 14, 1998, a month before the release, the three largest retailers in the United Statesâ€”K-Mart, Wal-Mart and the Target Corporationâ€”refused to stock the album citing the obscene cover and the expectation that it will carry a Parental Advisory sticker for violating their policy of not selling material with explicit lyrics or content. In an attempt to appease some of the retailers Nothing and Interscope discussed plans to cover the “breasts” with a sticker and enclose the entire package in blue cellophaneâ€”similar to the brown paper bag tactic employed exactly 30 years before by distributors on the explicitly nude cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins”. Wal-Mart still refused to sell the album, and consequently pulled all previous albums by Manson in light of the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999.
Guitarist Zim Zum had been replaced by the extremely talented guitarist John Lowery, who joined the band as John 5. Still, Zim Zum contributed guitar work to 12 of the album’s 14 tracks. Also, “I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)” features guitar work by Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction.
Between the tenebrous grooves of the “Great Big White World” and the gloomy close-down of the bitter “Coma White”, “Mechanical Animals” merged irony, parody and satire, snapshots of the world and its degeneration, and especially the shadows behind the falsely glamorous world of the show-business. Seven of the fourteen songs are from the perspective, lyrically and musically, of OmÄ“ga and his fictional band The Mechanical Animals, while the other seven are by Alpha, the character based on Marilyn Manson’s personal experiences mainly through the “conclusion of the Antichrist Superstar” tour and period. The OmÄ“ga songs are typically those most nihilistic and superficial lyrically, such as “The Dope Show”, “User Friendly” and “New Model No. 15”. The album artwork features a dual liner note book, in which one half has lyrics for the OmÄ“ga songs, and when flipped over, has those for the Alpha songs.
Rock is dead? Well, most of it probably yes because most of us are already dead inside. And no drugs can save us from ourselves.
01. “Great Big White World”
02. “The Dope Show”
03. “Mechanical Animals”
04. “Rock Is Dead”
06. “The Speed of Pain”
08. “I Want to Disappear”
09. “I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)”
10. “New Model No. 15”
11. “User Friendly”
12. “Fundamentally Loathsome”
13. “The Last Day on Earth”
14. “Coma White”
15. Untitled (data track)
On September 15, 1998, Marilyn Manson released the second part of that triptych, “Mechanical Animals” debuted at â„– 1 in its first week of sale, confirmed first week sales of 223,000 units in the U.S. Propelled by both the first single’s heavy rotation on the radio and on MTV as well as the band’s attention-grabbing main show performance at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, the record briefly displaced “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” for the â„– 1 position on the Billboard 200. By the second week, sales had dropped to 98,200 units and the album slid to the â„– 5 spot and over-all, it was the lowest-selling â„– 1 album of 1998. Despite “Mechanical Animals” was virtually blacklisted when Manson became the main scapegoat for the Columbine shootings of 1999, the album had later success
with unit sales very close behind the figure for its predecessor, “Antichrist Superstar.”
Worldwide, the album went on to sell over 8 million copies.
Marilyn Manson later noted in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine that “Mechanical Animals was to represent the point where the revolution got sold out, a hollow shell of what the essence of Marilyn Manson was. It was a satire, and a lot of people interpreted it as ‘This is what he really is.’ I was making a mockery of what I was, taking a shot at myself.”