Portrait Of An American Family

Marilyn Manson

Nothing / Interscope Records, 1994


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


We've all heard the criticisms before. Marilyn Manson is the devil. His music is corrupting the youth of America. People have even dared to blame his music for helping to inspire the tragedy in Littleton, Colorado. Let the truth be known: Marilyn Manson is a showman who just happens to know how to push people's buttons. He's Alice Cooper for Generation X. 'Nuff said.

Back in 1994, Manson seemed like he wanted to be the next Trent Reznor. His debut album, Portrait Of An American Family, not only was released on Reznor's Nothing label, but Reznor himself executive produced the effort. In the end, though, Manson can't seem to get things to come together solidly, and the effort sounds like watered-down Nine Inch Nails.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It doesn't start out badly for the former Brian Warner. After a spoken-word intro that is intermixed with just enough audio weirdness, Manson and band kick things off with the first song that would win them infamy - "Cake And Sodomy". Right off the bat, Manson sounds more like an alternative industrial artist than anything else (I've seen Manson's work classified as "heavy metal" - I don't think so), and while the parents' groups and religious right will always have a field day with the content of this song, it really isn't a bad effort musically. You don't have to agree with every word in a song to appreciate the songwriting.

Too bad there aren't more moments like this on Portrait Of An American Family, though I can point out a few others. "Get Your Gunn," a song that was called to people's attention after the Columbine shootings, is another decent effort that puts together the angst that Manson's generation feels with a driving quasi-industrial beat. Likewise, the two songs that close this album, "My Monkey" and "Misery Machine," are solid efforts that show the promise Manson had as a young artist.

Unfortunately, the bulk of Portrait Of An American Family collapses under its own weight of grandiose dreams and shock-rock tactics. It's not that I object to any of the imagery or language used in the course of the album. Instead, it's that the songwriting and performances on tracks like "Cyclops," "Dogma" and "Dope Hat" seem rather uninspired, and that Manson is hardly using his anger and ability to leave listeners wide-eyed to his full potential. Granted, this is only Manson's first album - but I'd expect a new artist to be a lot hungrier than the one I hear on this disc.

Is this a bad disc? I wouldn't quite go that far. It is an intriguing listen if all you know about Manson are songs like "The Beautiful People" from Antichrist Superstar, though it might leave you scratching your head a bit. But it's hardly up to par with what I think Manson was capable of doing. Portrait Of An American Family is not a bad picture, but is hardly the one that Manson would want to hang in his house as the first thing people saw.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Nothing / Interscope Records, and is used for informational purposes only.