The Manson Murders

You have to figure that any band with a song titled "Cake and Sodomy" is not likely to be populated with shrinking violets.

Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids seek to embody everything everybody's parents always hated about rock and roll, and in the process they've become one of the most talked-about unsigned original acts on the local music scene. Their notoriety springs partly from their name, partly from their twisted live concerts, and partly from the fact that the Marilyn Manson persona is only partially put on. The media have had great difficulty separating act from fact.

As a result, the image has tended to overshadow the music. This is unfortunate, since Marilyn and the girls - Daisy Berkowitz on guitars, Gidget Gein on bass, keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy, and the newest Spooky Kid on the block, Sara Lee Lucas - are purveyors of a unique, hard-edge rock sound that stands on its own merits.

The band's sound is a sonic throwback to the days of psychedelic vocals and lysergic guitars. "We're what heavy metal should have been," says Marilyn, lamenting the onset of "commercial hair monsters with pretty guitars" (did someone say Bon Jovi?).

The front person-vocalist is fond of utilizing electronic voice distortion to create a wide range of bizarre effects. In the process Marilyn resurrected the lost art of singing through a megaphone, which hasn't been put to such good use since "Winchester Cathedral." He (Marilyn is a guy, as are the rest of the Spooky Kids) claims to have recently mastered the rudiments of carrying a tune, although such a skill is not a prerequisite for most of the band's songs. "I'm never going to be another Kip Winger," Manson admits.

Not that it matters. Guitarist Berkowitz is the driving force behind the edgy, forboding sound, while Manson supplies lyrics and "spiritual leadership." Together they create a hard-core symphony that can veer wildly from crashing rock thunder to industrial thump, and then segue into a contorted lullaby. Effuses the prestigious industry rag Music Connection, "[Manson's] angst-filled, four-song demo tape is filled with punkish rock tunes that will keep your juices flowing...." There are echoes of early Black Sabbath in the music, as well as the Pixies, but the band Marilyn and company most evoke is the Doors.

Jim Morrison's linking of sex and death, violence and glamour, are themes oft-repeated in Marilyn Manson's songwriting. So thin he would give anorexia a bad name, with Tom Petty lips and long, straight hair, Marilyn bears little physical resemblance to the Lizard King. The similarity is in the enthrallment with extremes of human behavior, and the willingness, even eagerness, to observe or participate in same. Marilyn is both beguiled and repulsed by the consequences of the psyche unbound. This has led to a (some would say morbid) fascination with serial killers, particularly his swastika-engraved namesake. He professes amazement, however, that anyone would assume that he also condones these miscreants' murderous behavior. Marilyn on Jeffrey Dahmer: "What the guy did was really horrible. I mean, just disgusting. I have to admit that he's pretty clever; he totally made fools out of the law enforcement people up there. But no, I don't think what he did was all right. I think it was pretty terrible."

"I never told anyone to go out and kill anybody," he says, and then apologizes for borrowing the line from his semihero, Charlie Manson. A few of the latter Manson's pearls of wisdom appear in the Spooky Kids' harrowing tribute, "My Monkey," with lyrics that could pass for a nursery rhyme in a different setting. The way the Spooky Kids deliver it is closer to Stephen King than Mother Goose.

"Everything I say and do is real," Marilyn continues. "I don't do drugs because people expect me to. I don't like serial killers just to be cool. I thought - I still think - that most of us are fascinated by them. That doesn't mean I think we should emulate them. I got the Charles Manson album when I was a senior in high school. I don't agree with everything he said, but I agree with a lot of it, and I like a lot of his poetry."

Marilyn invokes Charlie's name matter-of-factly, which, by and of itself, is probably enough to scare people. But his voice is calm; there is no sense of hysteria or sensationalism. It doesn't feel like hype.

"I like to show people their own fear," he explains. "If people are afraid of being gay, then they're going to think we're a bunch of fags. If people are real religious, they're going to say we're Satanic. Everything people say about us is more a reflection of what they think than it is about what we think.... I give them [media hounds such as yours truly] everything, and they pick and choose what they want."

It is in this spirit that M.M. has been quoted as advocating everything from LSD to cannibalism. The band is happy to feed an interviewer with an obvious bias exactly the bullshit he or she wants to hear. Like Charlie, Marilyn Manson has a knack for media manipulation. In the latter's case, it is at least partially attributable to a two-year stint as a print journalist that preceded the leap to high-concept band leader. Marilyn is adept at pushing interviewers' buttons, and cannot resist the urge to say something totally outrageous when the opportunity arises.

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