The Most Influential Albums in My Life (Part 1)

When reading or listening to interviews with rocks stars I always find it fascinating to discover their choices for the most influential albums in their life.  As a total music junkie myself, today I thought it would be fun to share my own choices for the most influential albums in my life.  I’ve chosen these albums not only because they’re filled with some of my favorite songs (both lyrically & musically), but also because they are the kind of albums that helped me discover bands or genres with which I wasn’t previously familiar.  Anyhow, as I was writing I realized this was becoming quite a novel, so I decided to split it into two posts.  Here’s part one:music quote

  1. The Golden Age of Grotesque by Marilyn Manson (2003)
    • Despite the fact that this was by far not his most well-reviewed or commercially successful work, this will probably always be my favorite Manson album.  What’s interesting is that several of my favorite rock stars, including Chris from Motionless in White, have listed this as one of the most influential albums in their lives as well.  Stylistically this album was largely influenced by the Degenerate Art of 1930s Germany (the kind of modern art the Nazis banned), so there is a definite jazz feeling to certain songs which I of course love (check out the bizarrely named but incredibly fun Doll-Dagga-Buzz-Buzz-Ziggety-Zag). golden age of grotesque There is also a strong electronic influence from Swedish bassist Tim Skold. This can be clearly heard on the song that made me fall in love with this album, This is the New Shit, which is lyrically every bit as, if not more, relevant now than it was when it was released thirteen years ago.  Those who don’t understand that Manson’s music has always been a reaction against the celebration of violence, gore, sex, & commercialism in modern (particularly American) culture will completely miss the point of this song.  Personally, I find it brilliant.  Another favorite of mine from this album is the slightly crude but clever (s)aint.  I think anyone who has ever felt rejected by their peers will understand the angst of the lyrics perfectly.  Other favorites from this album are VodevilBetter of Two Evils, & The Bright Young Things.  I could go on & on, but for sake of time I’ll end by saying you simply MUST check out this album.
  2. Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) by Marilyn Manson (2000)holywood
    • For the most part I tried to only include one album from a single band or artist but Manson is just too much of an influence to limit myself in that way.  When I first fell in love with Manson, I quickly became enamored with the music & the message of The Fight Song, one of the most well-known songs from this album, but if you dig deeper into the history of this record you will realize just how brilliant the whole album really is.  One must remember that in 1999 Manson was very unjustly blamed by a great deal of the American media for the Columbine high school shooting tragedy.  What’s fascinating of course is to realize how maturely & humbly Manson handled the entire ordeal which truly threatened to topple his entire career (read Manson’s essay in Rolling Stone & tell me he isn’t brilliant).  In any case, this record was clearly influenced by the entire tragedy & is Manson’s way of showcasing to the world just how much our society truly glorifies & celebrates violence while at the same time pretending to condemn it.  There are also strong historical references to the Kennedy era.  This is not an album you can digest in one sitting.  Like any truly great work of art, you discover something new every time you listen to it.  And like so much of Manson’s music, songs like The Love SongDisposable Teens, & Target Audience are every bit as much of an indictment of modern American society now as they were when the album was first released.
  3. Halestorm by Halestorm (2009)halestorm albm
    • If I had to choose a favorite of Halestorm’s three amazing albums, it would actually be their most recent release Into the Wild Life.  However, it was their debut album from 2009 that first caught my attention & made me fall in love with the band.  The first single I Get Off admittedly grabbed my attention partly because it initially sounds very sexual.  But when you realize that Lzzy Hale actually wrote the song about the interaction between herself & the crowd when she’s performing her music, the song takes on a whole new power.  Then there are more ballad-like tracks such as Familiar Taste of Poison with its haunting, almost gothic feel & I’m Not an Angel which perfectly showcases Lzzy’s soaring vocals.  I’ve listened to this album literally countless times & yet it never loses its power, & I’m continually amazed that this was a debut album.  It’s definitely the album that started my love affair with this band.  (I’ve only seen them live four times now, & I’d gladly go again tomorrow, given the chance.  Fun fact: my baby has already attended a Halestorm concert too because I found out I was pregnant exactly three days after the last Halestorm show I saw!)
  4. The House of Gold & Bones (Volumes 1 & 2) by Stone Sour (2012-2013)stone sour house of gold and bones
    • I can’t even remember what other album I was looking for at Best Buy when, on a whim, I decided to pick up Volume 1 of this incredible two-part concept album.  Prior to buying Volume 1 I only knew a handful of songs by Stone Sour, but I was definitely enamored with the first single Absolute Zero which is why I decided to pick up the album when I saw it on sale.  As it turned out, the minute I heard the first chords of the opening tract Gone Sovereign & how it seamlessly melted into Absolute Zero, I was in total awe (you can listen to both tracks in the prior link, as their videos are dovetailed).  From start to finish there isn’t a single bad song on this album. Lyrically & musically it is completely brilliant.  I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: this album is like a rock symphony.  Each song blends flawlessly into the next one, & the whole record just feels like one giant masterpiece.  The same is equally true for Volume 2.  From Volume 1 don’t miss the hauntingly beautiful ballad Taciturn which serves to make the following track Influence of a Drowsy God even more powerful.  From Volume 2 be sure to check out the angry but brilliant Do Me a Favor as well as the gorgeous ballad The Conflagration which flows seamlessly into the epic ending The House of Gold & Bones.
  5. The Outsiders by Eric Church (2014)eric church the outsiders
    • Ahh, if you know me at all, you should have known that Eric Church would show up on this list somewhere.  The ironic thing is that when I first heard Church’s music I wasn’t impressed.  I thought he was a little too grungy, a little too “dirty.”  What’s funny is that now those are the exact reasons I love his music.  In any case, seeing Church perform live was what truly solidified my adoration for his entire persona (a fact I’m sure he’d appreciate).  Not long after that concert I purchased his third album Chief & quickly fell in love with every song.  Needless to say when The Outsiders debuted I bought it the very day it was released.  Once again from start to finish I was completely enthralled with the album & still am.  From the gritty & bombastic opener The Outsiders to sweet ballads like Talladega to the best & most realistic country sex song ever, there’s something here for everyone.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention That’s Damn Rock & Roll, another favorite from this album, which I’ve only loved even more since Church had Lzzy Hale perform the song with him at the 2014 ACM awards.  I also have to mention Devil, Devil, one of the most unique songs Church has ever recorded.  The first half of the song is a poem spoken by Church about the evil side of the Nashville music industry while the second half is a rocking song that is all the more powerful when performed live by Church & his band.
  6. Reincarnate by Motionless in White (2014)Motionless_in_white_reincarnate
    • This album absolutely has to be on this list because it became what one might call a “gateway” album for me in that it helped me to discover so many other great bands & albums.  Last January (2015) I stumbled across MIW while fooling around on YouTube one night, & as soon as I heard Reincarnate, I knew I was addicted.  The very next day I went to Best Buy & bought the album of the same name.  From the minute I heard the first chords of Death March I knew I’d stumbled onto something really special.  A few weeks later I discovered that lead singer Chris Motionless was featured on the cover of AP magazine, so naturally I went to B&N to buy the magazine.  While reading the magazine I came across an interview with none other than Marilyn Manson.  Up until then I’d never been a big Manson fan.  I wasn’t opposed to him per se; I just thought he was weird.  But once I read that article, I knew I had misjudged him & I had to check out his brand new record The Pale Emperor, which I swiftly did.  Not long after that, I discovered much of his older music & became as obsessed with Manson as I clearly am now.  See what I mean by a gateway album?  Ok, now that I’ve gone off on that tangent, let’s return to the original subject . . . Be sure to check out the angry & feisty Generation Lost, the confidence-booster Unstoppable, & Contemptress, a sexy ballad featuring Maria Brink from In This Moment.

      chris motionless quote

      Chris Motionless

I sincerely hope you’ll check out some of the above albums, at least a song or two from each.  Please feel free to comment below with some of the most influential albums in your own life.  Stay tuned for part 2 next week (or later this week, perhaps) which I promise will contain at least one non-rock album (ha!).

Why Marilyn Manson Isn’t Actually the Devil After All

If you haven’t figured it out already (or if you’re new here), this blog is often a place where I explore things I was taught growing up & how I’ve moved away from some of those things as I’ve become an adult.  This isn’t easy for me because, whether by nature or by nurture, or more likely some combination of the two, I am a bit of a people-pleaser.  I like to help others & to make people happy.  It’s never come naturally to me to rock the boat, & thus I try to avoid confrontation as much as possible.  However, one of the best things about being a nurse is that it has forced me to become a lot more assertive & thus be less afraid of confrontation.  Furthermore, it has helped me understand that life is far too short to be anything but happy, & that Shakespeare’s words “This above all, to thine own self be true” were indeed very wise.  The older I get, the less I care about pleasing everyone else in my life because I’ve realized that I can never please everyone anyway.  And at the end of the day, no one owns my life except me, so it’s best to just be honest about who I am & what I believe & let the cards fall where they may.

That was a long preamble, but I’ve said all that to explain why today’s blog post is kind of a big deal for me. marilyn manson

One of the things I learned growing up was that Marilyn Manson was more or less the personification of evil, Satan incarnate if you will.  As someone who seems to have made a career out of making people uncomfortable & rocking the boat in every possible way, quite often it seems just for the hell of it, Manson is someone that for most of my life I just couldn’t understand.  I still vividly remember the first time I heard his version of Sweet Dreams & was mildly horrified to find that I loved the song.  I was driving to Blacksburg to visit my then-boyfriend/now-husband when the song came on the radio.  It was dark outside & I have to admit the song sent chills down my spine.  And yet I loved it.  At the time I was vaguely familiar with a few of his other pieces like The Beautiful People & The Dope Show, but none of them had ever intrigued me enough to really investigate him further or see past his “devilish” image (both literal & metaphorical).  It’s only in the past few weeks that I’ve really started to read up on Manson & try to understand him as an artist & a person, which was triggered when I read an interview with him about his new album in Revolver magazine & was surprised at the maturity & wisdom in his words.

pale emperor

Manson’s latest album, which just debuted in January, is very bluesy & quite different than much of his previous work. Definitely worth a listen even if you’re not normally a fan of his music.

To be clear, I’m still not a fan of some of Manson’s antics from his heyday back in the 90s (stuff like urinating on fans & masturbating on stage).  But if you read some of his more recent interviews or listen to his latest album, The Pale Emperor, it quickly becomes apparent that Manson has matured a great deal.  I’ve also just recently seen his interview in Bowling for Columbine & read some of the articles he wrote in response to that tragedy, & I’ve found myself nodding along in agreement with every word he said.

So today I’d like to share some of my favorite Manson quotes that I’ve gathered over the past few weeks that prove to me that he is not in fact the devil incarnate & is indeed actually a very astute, articulate artist who deserves a lot more respect & a lot less fear than he gets.  (Also he’s pretty hilarious, but in a devilish way, of course.)mm pale emperor

“A lot of people forget or never realize that I started my band as a criticism of these very issues of despair and hypocrisy. The name Marilyn Manson has never celebrated the sad fact that America puts killers on the cover of Time magazine, giving them as much notoriety as our favorite movie stars. From Jesse James to Charles Manson, the media, since their inception, have turned criminals into folk heroes. They just created two new ones when they plastered those dip-shits Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris’ pictures on the front of every newspaper. Don’t be surprised if every kid who gets pushed around has two new idols.”

Times have not become more violent. They have just become more televised. Does anyone think the Civil War was the least bit civil? If television had existed, you could be sure they would have been there to cover it, or maybe even participate in it…”

mm destroy faith

“Responsible journalists have reported with less publicity that Harris and Klebold were not Marilyn Manson fans – that they even disliked my music. Even if they were fans, that gives them no excuse, nor does it mean that music is to blame. Did we look for James Huberty’s inspiration when he gunned down people at McDonald’s? What did Timothy McVeigh like to watch? . . . What inspires Bill Clinton to blow people up in Kosovo? . . . Isn’t killing just killing, regardless if it’s in Vietnam or Jonesboro, Arkansas? Why do we justify one, just because it seems to be for the right reasons? Should there ever be a right reason? If a kid is old enough to drive a car or buy a gun, isn’t he old enough to be held personally responsible for what he does with his car or gun? Or if he’s a teenager, should someone else be blamed because he isn’t as enlightened as an eighteen-year-old?”

“I’m a controversial artist, one who dares to have an opinion and bothers to create music and videos that challenge people’s ideas in a world that is watered-down and hollow. In my work I examine the America we live in, and I’ve always tried to show people that the devil we blame our atrocities on is really just each one of us. So don’t expect the end of the world to come one day out of the blue – it’s been happening every day for a long time.”

[All of the above quotes come from Manson’s response to the Columbine tragedy published in Rolling Stones.  I strongly encourage you to read the entire piece in all of its brilliance:]marilyn-manson-cat

“…but in the end you always die alone.  It’s not really a sad story, but it is the reality story.  We all die alone.  It’s what you do when you’re alive that counts.  And if you make a deal with the devil, don’t try to outrun him, because in the end, he’s always going to be there.”

“The church wouldn’t have tried to suppress music if there wasn’t so much power in it . . . It’s a really all about alchemy in the end.  It’s about turning lead into gold, & that’s what making music is.  And they fear that- that’s really the thing.  It’s not, ‘Oh, that evil rock and roll music- it makes the kids go out and have sex!’  It’s, ‘They’re stealing our market!  Those are our customers!  Give them back!’”

[The above two quotes are from the interview with Manson in the current (February/March 2015) issue of Revolver magazine which I referenced earlier in this post.  You can find the magazine at Barnes & Noble.]manson pale emperor

If you were to talk directly to the kids at Columbine and the people in that community, what would you say to them right now?

I wouldn’t say a single word to them.  I would listen to what they have to say. And that’s what no one did.”

[From the interview with Manson in Bowling for Columbine]

manson columbine

“Well, I always like to go by the motto ‘freedom of speech does not come with a dental plan’ . . . Words are just words. But to some people, they’re not just words. When they’re very fundamentalist, and whether it be Christian or Islamic or whatever it is, some people can not take jokes. And those are the people that you pretty much avoid making jokes about. That’s what I’ve learned.”

[You can read the full interview from which the above quote comes here:  It’s full of Manson’s signature devilish humor.]

“The beast they lived in fear of was really themselves: It was man, not some mythological demon, that was going to destroy man in the end. And this beast had been created out of their fear.”

“Everybody has a light and a dark side, and neither can exist without the other.”

[From his autobiography The Long, Hard Road Out of Hell]Marilyn Manson book

“Art is a f—ing question mark, you fill in the blanks. That’s the listener’s job — that’s what music is about.”

[From this interview:]

The following are quotes I really like that are attributed to Manson, but FYI I can’t find direct sources for them.

A lot of people don’t want to make their own decisions. They’re too scared. It’s much easier to be told what to do.”

“I never said to be like me; I say to be like you and make a difference.”

Manson & his dad

Manson & his dad

Music is the strongest form of magic.”

“All the drugs in the world won’t save us from ourselves.”

“The devil doesn’t exist . . . you are responsible for your own good and evil.”

manson music magic

In the end it seems that maybe Manson isn’t so evil after all . . . or at least no more so than any of the rest of us.  And maybe that’s exactly what he’s being trying to show us all these years.