Portrait of An American Family-Marilyn Manson

Release Year: 1994

Rating: 8.5/10

This is a very impressive album for a major label debut. It’s full of original material inspired by various sources, such as the show Twin Peaks, the murder of an abortion doctor, and serial killer Charles Manson. The album was released in 1994, a time where grunge was still fairly popular but on its way out. While everyone was talking about how the world makes them angry, Manson talked about a cyclops woman, beating up bullies with his metal lunchbox and a sweet song to his dead monkey. Not only did the packaging of this album catch your eye, but the music itself is attention getting, which is what Manson would continue to aim for in his career.

The album opens with a sadistic take on the dialogue from the boat trip scene in the Willy Wonka movie. Manson constantly shouts “There’s no earthly way of knowing/which direction we are going…” until the whole thing abruptly ends in silence. The album then continues on to the next track “Cake and Sodomy.” At the start of the song Manson repeats “I am the god of fuck,” which adds to his bigger than life image. This tracks features hard, psychedelic sounding guitars while Manson screams about the hypocrisy about America and Christianity. This song has great aggression and frustration that you can actually hear and it makes you pay attention to the message Manson is trying to get across.

Just about all of the songs here are really good and memorable. “Dope Hat,” one of the album’s singles, has a psychedelic feel and this feeling is exemplified by the music video, which takes a gruesome and violent interpretation of the boat ride from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. “Get Your Gunn, ” on the other hand, is very aggressive and raw. It was inspired by the murder of doctor David Gunn, who performed abortions. He was killed by anti-choice protestors. “My Monkey” can be seen as kind of silly because almost the entire song is sung in a Chimpmunk style, but the subject is pretty grim since the song describes the monkey getting run over by a train.

The only songs that get confusing are “Wrapped in Plastic” and “Sweet Tooth” and this is only because they sound so similar. A lot of the songs also have low sound effects or silence before the tracks (such as the aforementioned songs), which builds up suspense and the creepy tone that plays throughout. This is most effective on “Wrapped in Plastic.” The slow, low sounds heard in the beginning and throughout the song gives the track a menacing effect, almost similar to “Kinderfeld.”

This album is full of samples from horror movies, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and other sources, which gives it sort of a Rob/White Zombie feel. The music may not sound the same, but the samples remind of you of what Rob does with his work. But this is the only album where samples are used extensively. This adds to the weirdness of the drug infused album. If anything, the various distressed voices from the samples and the slow, drudging music makes the listener feel as if they are doing drugs with Manson.

One thing that is hard to miss while listening to this album is the attitude in every aspect of the record from the music, to the vocals and the lyrics. It sounds as if Manson already knows he’s a rockstar and has all his millions of fans in the palm of his hand. He went big on this album and he keeps trying to go bigger and bigger every time he releases something new. In general, this is Manson’s most playful album. From the way he sings to how the music sounds, it has a very playful, sinister yet juvenile feel. This is not bad; actually it works quite well on this album, it’s just different from what he would do on later on. The music nor the lyrics are as dark as they are on his other albums. Also, the persona on this album is a more sinister version if Willy Wonka, rather than the bigger than life antichrist image he would portray later on

Overall, I give this album 8.5/10. It’s one of Manson’s weirder albums, but this doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. Some fans may be turned off by some of the odd songs, but others may think it’s his best work. What everyone will enjoy is the message from a disgruntled mother at the end of “Misery Machine” informing the band to take her son off their mailing list. She even goes on to describes the band’s music as “pornographic material” and even threatens to call her attorney. It’s a preview to the trouble Manson would stir up later on.

Fun fact: The clay figures on the cover were made by Manson himself! What did you think about this album? Do you have a favorite song from it? Share thoughts in the comments.

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