The Impersonal Touch

There’s a real drag I started noticing on how some people start to approach things. I’ve done it myself, as far as you can in the virtual realm of the internet. It’s when someone who had their eye on the ball starts getting too absorbed in themselves. Not selfish or self centered, just… too caught up in introspection. First time I noticed this kind of thing was probably back when I’d been thinking about what really set Marilyn Manson’s earlier album’s apart from the later ones.

And not in terms of authenticity of good tunes, but in terms of commercial success and record sales. The singer himself has voiced the difference but it took me a while to put my finger on it.

Antichrist Superstar has some autobiographical elements; so does Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood. But theirs are woven into the story, the themes, the concepts, and the personal touch gives those more depth. More significance. Then you look at later albums, where Manson’s desire to remind the general public that he was in fact human, that he had feelings, started to take a more dominant role than any of the themes or concepts at play. Like in Eat Me, Drink Me.

The references to Alice in Wonderland are all over the place, werewolves and vampires are mentioned too, and they all come through a little weaker than they might have in the past. And to be crystal clear, I’m not knocking the newer albums, I happen to like all of them for what they are, but that difference is part of what I think marked the decline in notoriety he experienced.

Concept albums are grandiose, clever, maybe autobiographical, but there’s an epic feel to it, an accessibility, that makes the personalized elements so divorced from the person they came from that they take on a life of their own. Later, he got more entangled in his own emotions, his own feelings, and those started to dominate, blotting out any attempted story lines, metaphors, clever word play, story progression… started to blot out any chance of an epic (and accessible) feel.

Idk… make of that what you will, but I think it’s interesting that when his vision for his art was larger than life, he became larger than life, became famous, became rich, became hated, became known. Then that vision started getting smaller, more personalized, more narrow. Now it seems to be expanding again as evidenced in his latest album, The Pale Emperor, and guess what…

The Pale Emperor received generally positive reviews from music critics.[4][95][96] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from music critics, the album received an average score of 71, indicating “generally favorable reviews”, based on 19 publications.[84]

Numerous publications referred to the album as being the band’s best work in over 15 years. Alec Chillingworth of Stereoboard said that The Pale Emperor saw Manson “climbing back to the creative summit he fell from following Holy Wood. He’s never going to top those early albums, but by expanding his palette and finally getting it right, [the album] reinstates Marilyn Manson as a relevant musical force and an elder statesman of the industrial scene”, awarding the album four stars out of five.[99] Mark Orton of Otago Daily Times wrote that “not since Mechanical Animals has Manson put together a selection with such sass, swagger and synergy,” and awarded the album four and a half stars out of five.[100]Sonic Abuse also compared The Pale Emperor to Mechanical Animals, saying that it was “grander in scope” than any album released in-between, and opined that it “stands as one of the best, if not the best album in Marilyn Manson’s canon.”[101]

The quality of the album’s songwriting was also praised. Corey Deiterman of Houston Press considered The Pale Emperor to be a “triumphant return to the songwriting principles that made him famous in the first place”, and asserted that Manson’s persona had “finally given way to the superior musician that always lived within.”[102] In a positive review for Yahoo! Music, Allan Raible highlighted the album’s focus on songcraft instead of shock value,[44] with a Kerrang! review echoing a similar sentiment.[90] Dean Brown of The Quietus argued that this album found Manson to be a revitalized performer, and complimented its “devilishly addictive hooks“.[103]Jeff Miers of The Buffalo News regarded The Pale Emperor to be the band’s first excellent collection of the post-millennial world. He also praised its lyrical content, saying that Manson sounds “both inspired and disgusted, which is usually the tightrope he walks when he’s doing his best work.”[87]

That’s from the wikipedia article on it, specifically from the section on what kind of reception it got from critics after it was released. He created some of that imaginary distance between himself and a pale emperor, enlarged the vision he had for what he wanted to achieve, tapped back into some of that old ambition his earlier albums just dripped with, and this was the result.

One thing that confirms, for me anyways, is that only an already loyal fan base gives a shit about the personal stuff. As far as unattached or new audiences go though, they want to be entertained. They want to be given something that makes them feel something, and they don’t necessarily care what’s going on in the artists life, not even what they get out of the creative process.

See, I always presupposed you, the one reading this right now, doesn’t give a shit about me. Maybe it’s not true, maybe you’ve read my writings for a year or two and you usually like what I have to say. Maybe you’d feel vicariously sad for me if I told you about a sad experience I had. All well and good if any of that happens to be the case, but I’d just as soon assume, from the perspective of writing honestly, of achieving what I want, of continuing to expand my reach…

I’d just as soon assume you don’t give a shit about me personally.

Even if you do, factoring that into my thinking or my writing would just distract me. When I encounter a connection, when something of mine resonates, when someone shows they care, I appreciate it and I’ll say so. Before and after each of those encounters though, in the interim…

Seems smarter to just put it out of my mind, where it won’t get in my way.


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