Reinvention is both a blessing and a curse for artists. Do you risk following up a platinum record – one that put you in the national consciousness – with more of the same? Do you play it safe or take a big risk, stylistically? That was the quandary facing Marilyn Manson in 1998, as their 1996 sophomore record Antichrist Superstar propelled them to worldwide fame. The response was the David Bowie-inspired Mechanical Animals, which twisted around the band’s industrial metal formula into something even more intriguing.
It can’t be overstated how impressive this record is, considering its context. You have to remember that in the late 90’s, Marilyn Manson was a counterculture superstar – and a rallying point for conservatives to rail against, especially after the Columbine massacre (which happened a year after this record was released). Apparently Marilyn Manson live shows and even lyrical content contained rape, bestiality, and even animal sacrifice – things that clearly never happened. Made a scapegoat by the media, Mechanical Animals is a bold response to fame and all of its trappings.
2nd track “The Dope Show” is a real shock to the system from fans of the band’s previous two records. Manson really does channel the spirit of David Bowie on the album – from the album cover to the record’s stylistic direction – and while there’s hardly filler to be found, there’s plenty of standout songs. Take album closer “Coma White”, for instance. A left-field ballad, it’s quite possibly the band’s best song, and one that still shocks today.
Released 20 years ago, Mechanical Animals is still a record worth hearing today. A real winner for those who appreciate glam rock, David Bowie, and above all, reinvention.