Marilyn Manson

Review: Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor

With the title referencing a David Foster Wallace book about boredom (The Pale King) and David Bowie’s ill-advised 1976 persona and character known as the Thin White Duke, we know Marilyn Manson isn’t fucking around on his ninth studio album. Thankfully The Pale Emperor sees Manson concentrating on the music first and foremost (alas, no more Shia LeBeouf), and thus producing a confident, mature rock record.

After a five-album string of duds following 1998’s Mechanical Animals, it’s also one of his better records, largely because he’s back to channeling Bowie. On opening track “Killing Strangers” he does so over an industrial stomp, though it would have twice the impact at half its length. Lead single “Deep Six” opens with some beautiful electronic noise before settling into industrial-metal, but it’s on ”The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles” that the influence of one David Robert Jones is turned up the highest, resulting in an album highlight. Manson has always been about playing games and wearing masks, and his best moments come when he’s wearing Bowie (a.k.a. Jones) like a second skin.

This won’t be Manson’s second chance at commercial success or a bold move into new territory. This isn’t his Kid A (Radiohead’s fourth studio album from 2000) or Low (David Bowie, circa 1977). For fans and the man himself it is a turning point where things start getting better.

Screaming Females

Everything New Under the Sun: Screaming Females

Imagine it’s 1988 and somebody puts a copy of Fugazi’s EP Margin Walker in your hands. Hell, imagine it’s 1967 and you get a record with a livid yellow banana on the cover that barely includes the album’s name, The Velvet Underground and Nico. You’d know from the first spin that by all rights, the band should be huge. As the years passed you’d see them continuing to toil away at the edges of popular culture, avoiding the easy ways to make a quick buck. They aren’t an institution, but somehow they are the kind of band that eventually is offered ridiculous sums of money to re-form and they turn it down, being more interested in letting the music remain a motive force.

There are a lot of people who have picked up one of the six Screaming Females albums released over the last nine years and had that moment, or who have seen one of their energetic live show, including high profile sets at Calgary’s own Sled Island. They are, according to Stereogum.com and plenty of others, “one of the best rock bands on the face of the earth.” Their new record, Rose Mountain, is the perfect jumping-on point for new listeners.

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Review: 2:54 – The Other I

It’s never good to point out the single element that ruins an otherwise good record, and it’s even less fun to point out that this element is the vocals and lyrics. Guitarists just have to have their fingers in the right places at the right times, drummers just have to hit things, but lyricists have to look at life and say something interesting and original about it. That’s hard, but people do it every day. On The Other I, London-based sisters Hannah and Colette Thurlow don’t, despite being able to coax some beautiful sounds from guitars and bass.

Collette’s vocal delivery recalls her home country’s trip-hop genre, not exactly somewhere to find exceptional vocalists aside from Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, who could sing the “Chicken Tonight” jingle and still make you cry. The lyrics are just … lyrics. When Garage Band gets sophisticated enough to write words to go with auto-generated music, they’ll sound something like 2:54.

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