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Best Albums Ever: Mechanical Animals – Marilyn Mason


By Hannah Straw

As a fan of David Bowie and Marc Bolan, Mechanical Animals is just the kind of Glam Rock temper tantrum that appeals to me. It’s a marked departure from anything Manson has produced before or since. There’s no incoherent screaming and no declaring himself the antichrist. The goth boots are even swapped out for glam platforms. Narrated by the fictional alien ‘Omega’ and his foil ‘Alpha’, the album follows in the tradition of Ziggy Stardust, seeing Omega transformed into a plasticized Rockstar numbed by drugs and fame. But unlike Bowie’s 1972 album, Mechanical Animals treads a darker path, reflecting the bloated celebrity age back at itself.

While the record is admittedly not a musical masterpiece (Manson himself has said they should have considered using more than three chords), what makes it so good is the entire decadent rock-and-roll package viewed as one. The striking visuals are just as important to Mechanical Animals as the music. In the video for ‘The Dope Show’, Manson croons and poses in his PVC platforms as well as any glam rocker from years passed – but the video is set in a grossly dystopic reality; Omega’s glittering extravagance appearing detached from the grey world he’s placed in. And that really is the point. The very explosion of rock and roll decadence in a world where it seems so out of place makes this LP really stand out.

The frivolity of the catchy hooks and outrageous styling don’t extend to the lyrics, however. The opening track describes the ‘Great Big White World’ the album is set in – devoid of any emotion or colour, Omega and Alpha struggle to integrate themselves with the ‘Mechanical Animals’ that inhabit it. The moody narrative of drugs and dissociation rings truer now in our age of sterile social media than when the album was released in 1998. In fact one of the best things about Mechanical Animals is how, even seventeen years after its release, it still manages to present a scathing reflection of a society obsessed with celebrities and numbed by television. In the obscenely catchy ‘I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)’, grotesquely bug eyed children sit glued to TV screens and clap emotionless as utter chaos unfolds before them. Manson’s sultry drawl of “raised to be stupid, taught to be nothing at all” paints a disturbing picture all too familiar in the internet age.

Mechanical Animals perfectly combines music, lyrics, and image to create a record I find myself still enjoying nearly ten years after I first heard it. It remains a fantastic album because it’s exactly that; an album. Each song informs the next, creating a vivid story from the first song to the last. This coherence creates a lurid reflection of a soulless world that skates dangerously close to our own; utilising all the swagger and audacity of its glam rock predecessors. A melodramatic rock opera it may be, but it’s one that is often witty, indulgent, and catchy, and always infinitely enjoyable.

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1 Comment

  1. /slow clap
    It’s almost prophetic.


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