Marilyn-Manson--Born-VillainOnce, Marilyn Manson was something. That something may or may not have been good, but it was. He was interesting. He was a spectacle.

“Was” is past tense.

Has anyone even listened to this album right the way through? Can anybody muster even the slightest interest in any of the songs? Does anybody know or care when one track ends and the next begins?

This album is so featureless and uneventful that sometimes I forget that it exists. I start absently wondering whether there will be a new Manson album soon, and then I remember that one did, in fact, come out, and this is it. Then I listen to part of a song or so on Youtube. I never finish it. Marilyn Manson’s music from the past ten years has the positive trait of making things in your environment seem unnervingly interesting, such as a sleeping cat, a bit of fluff on the floor, etc.

Born Villain is the musical equivalent of pushing a broken shopping trolley. It is slow, tedious, and unrewarding. Where are we going here, Brian? “Hey, Cruel World” is an effort at bringing back the gritty hate punk of “Irresponsible Hate Anthem”, but it sounds laboured and lethargic, like someone set the metronome thirty clicks too slow. “Slo-Mo-Tion” is offensively worthless dribble with no reason to exist. Nice drumming, too. Sounds like a GarageBand drum loop.

“The Gardener” has Big Bri spruiking his stupid beat poetry to the backdrop of bass guitar and more drumming c/o GarageBand. Calling this boring is an insult to honest God-fearing boring things everywhere. There’s no energy or inspiration on either side of the speakers. Brian just doesn’t care. You can almost see the studio execs holding up a “YOU CAN STOP PLAYING NOW” sign.

It’s Twiggy’s second album back in the band – remarkable, as virtually nobody lasts for two consecutive albums in Marilyn Manson. Chris Vrenna is credited for about a million things. I don’t know much about that guy, except that he made some remixes of Rob Zombie songs back in the day. Otherwise it’s Brian’s show. I assume his midlife crisis is in full swing by now, with publicity quotes like “Sometimes you don’t know how the fuck to be yourself, because you’re too confused by the circumstances you’re in.” Don’t hope that the old Manson magic is coming back any time soon. Manson himself has forgotten it.

The desperation becomes very tangible on track 14, Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” a guileless attempt at creating a crossover hit like “Sweet Things (Are Made of This)”. This was my favourite song as a kid and he makes into a non-event just like the others. Johnny Depp is on the song. I shouldn’t have mentioned him because now I’m thinking about The Onion’s Johnny Depp Now Completely Made Of Scarves And Bracelets instead of Born Villain.

It is not as terrible as Eat Me, Drink Me. That’s another tick in the boredom column, as it fails even to be entertainingly bad. I won’t call Born Villain music because that might trigger Pavlovian reactions towards much better things. I won’t call it “noise” because even noise is sometimes more interesting than this. Maybe it should be classified as an “alternative to silence”.

“Hey, have you heard Marilyn Manson’s new alternative to silence? I haven’t, either. No-one has.”

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chris-chan-dvdThis DVD contains over four hours of pure autism, and is essential viewing for all Chris-chan fans (just so long as you’re not a JERK).

Although it was distributed in 2007 among a few select friends and family members, Chris intended this DVD to be mass-released at some point. He mentions in his Future Message that he thought the DVD would eventually be shown in schools. You see, Chris believed he is a special person, one worthy of great fame and recognition…and, as history has shown, he was absolutely correct.

The oldest piece of film is from 1994, when Chris was 12, and documents him winning some local sweepstakes thing. This video can be considered definitive proof that Chris is not a joke or a character. He talks to the camera like a shell-shocked PTSD victim, and the reporter mentions that he has high functioning autism.

The next video is from 1998, with Chris reading a poem in high school. “My peer relationship is low, and my loneliness is off the scale.” He soon wanders off topic, and starts talking about school life in general. The video ends with Chris raging and shrieking like demon-possessed Regan because he got bad marks in English.

Then we’ve got a pile of tedious videos of Chris playing videogames. There’s a news segment from 1999, when Pokemon was huge, that shows Chris playing the trading card game with kids half his age and generally taking it all rather seriously.

Then there’s Chris singing his cover of The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”, with lyrics about how he’s searching for a girlfriend.

And so on, and so forth…it’s endearing and rather moving to see Chris’s mind at work. I wonder what it must feel like to have such a world-view that 5 minute clips of you playing videogames seem like professional DVD-worthy content. Honestly, it would feel awesome.

This guy’s feedback mechanisms are broken in the best way possible. Everything he does is perfect. Every comic he draws is a masterpiece. Every game he beats gives him the rush normal people get from climbing Everest. Being Chris is like being a rat, pulling a lever, and having six pounds of Gorgonzola fall on your head.

The longest part of the video is a two hour slideshow of Chris’s art, comics, and photography. The soundtrack is provided by Chris’s “radio station” KCWC, which means I hope you like videogame OSTs and 90s pop songs. Apparently Chris has a master copy of this DVD that goes for six hours.

Chris is a legend in his own mind. And mine, too.

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daudibaldrsThis is the infamous album recorded in prison by black metal musician Varg Vikernes.

Given Varg’s troubled past, troubled present, and (most likely) troubled future, it would be easy to say that Dauði Baldrs is most interesting because of the man who made it. Musically, it isn’t such of a much. Varg was only allowed a midi keyboard, and he made an album that pushes the boundaries of the term “minimalist.”

Dauði Baldrs is thirty nine minutes of droning, repetitive 8-bit melodies, meant to articulate the death of the Norse god Baldr (the lyrics missing from the album can be read on the Burzum website). “Í Heimr Heljar” agitates things a bit with some percussion, but mostly the album consists of monophonic synth and piano themes, like Philip Glass making videogame music.

Some accuse the album of sounding hopelessly repetitive, but honestly it’s no more repetitive than Burzum albums released on the other side of the bars. I think it’s meant to sound like this, and that Varg uses repetition as an intentional artistic device. This album pounds basic and simplistic ideas through your head with the unvarying repetition of a punch press machine, causing you to disassociate from what you’re hearing. The result is a little like hypnosis: you feel completely adrift, and unmoored from reality. If it’s done properly (and has the necessary inspiration), music doesn’t really need to get any more complex than this, and Dauði Baldrs can be seen as a brief exercise on how to do less with more.

Scott McCloud once said something about how art equals abstraction. Charles Schulz doesn’t need to draw every hair on Charlie Brown’s head. A few quick rakes with a pencil are enough. In the same way, Dauði Baldrs presents a highly abstract set of ideas that are not fully realised (which would be with guitars, orchestration, and whatever else ), and the attendant assumption that your own imagination will fill in the missing parts. It’s not as abstract as music can get, though. Truly abstract music is not audible at all, it’s written — sheet music on a piece of paper.

I like video game music (I refuse to call it “chiptunes”), but even that comparison misses the mark. I can’t do anything more but describe Daudi Baldrs as “abstraction”. Varg is sharing his musical ideas with us through an 8-bit midi keyboard, and hoping our brains will decode it back into music again.

Its entertainment value is questionable, but Dauði Baldr is a good example of art bypassing technical limitations like a spy weaving through enemy picket lines. One thing remains certain: if Varg Vikernes gets put in a stone hotel with nothing but a triangle, he will still make music to the best of his abilities.

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