Mechanical Animals is Marilyn Manson's third full-length album, released on September 15, 1998. It was the #1 selling album on its first week of release, the first of Marilyn Manson's career. The album is a concept album, similar to its predecessor, Antichrist Superstar. Four singles were released off the album: "The Dope Show," "Rock is Dead," "I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)," and, only released promotionally and with a video, "Coma White." This album virtually rebuilt the band and gave it more of a Glam Rock persona. Despite its success, the album was marred by controversy and is notorious for its shocking imagery, even with absence of vulgar language in the lyrical content. Initial sales were extremely strong but it became virtually blacklisted when it became the scapegoat of the Columbine shootings of 1999 (despite the lack of evidence that the shooters were fans of the band), with unit sales halting very close behind the figure for its predecessor, Antichrist Superstar. This album is considered a prequel to its predecessor. Mechanical Animals has sold more than 8 million copies, making it the second best-selling Marilyn Manson album.
Compared to Marilyn Manson's previous work, Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals is, on an aesthetic level, far less dark, but in concept, far more grim. In both image and music, Mechanical Animals is inspired by 1970s style, Bowie-esque glam rock.
Musically, many songs are much lighter in melodies than those on Antichrist Superstar and they are far less sonically abrasive. The lyrics, however, are much more grim than its predecessor. Compared to most of the band's work, the musical arrangement is far more complicated than anything the group released previously or since.
In the album, Manson takes on two roles, being a substance-addicted glam rocker and gender-bending alien called Omēga (pronounced specifically in this case, as intimated by phonetic accents in the liner notes, oh-ME-gah), just like Bowie's Ziggy Stardust character. Manson's other role is that of Alpha, or a facet of himself. Subsequently, seven of the fourteen songs are from the perspective, lyrical and musical, of a fictional band called Omēga and the Mechanical Animals, while the other seven are by Marilyn Manson. The Omēga songs are typically those most nihilistic and superficial lyrically, such as "New Model No. 15," "User Friendly," and "The Dope Show." The album artwork features a dual liner note book, in which one half has lyrics for the Omēga songs, and when flipped over, has those for the Alpha songs.
* "Great Big White World"
* "Mechanical Animals"
* "The Speed of Pain"
* "The Last Day on Earth"
* "Coma White"
* "The Dope Show"
* "Rock Is Dead"
* "I Want to Disappear"
* "I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)"
* "New Model No. 15"
* "User Friendly"
* "Fundamentally Loathsome"
In a 1998 interview, Manson himself related the album to the band's previous work, saying, "On Antichrist Superstar I compared myself to Lucifer's fall from heaven. … The new album is more about what happens when I land on Earth and try to fit in as a human being." ("I'm just a sample of a soul made to look just like a human being," from "I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)"). In other interviews comparing the two albums, Manson likened himself more so to Jesus Christ than Lucifer.
After the release of Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death), it arose that the correct listening would be Holy Wood, Mechanical Animals, and finally Antichrist Superstar (chronologically opposite from their actual releases) because though Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals made sense as individual concept albums on their own, there was a hidden over-arching story running through the three releases.
Regarding the many purported hidden meanings contained in this album, is the influence and presence of the number 15. One blatant example is the band's new logo on the album cover, it reads "MAR1LYN MAN5ON" with a figure 1 for the 'i' in Marilyn and a figure 5 for the letter 's' in Manson, the Omega-head logo contains 15 computer keys on the forehead, another obvious instance being the track "New Model No. 15," and "User Friendly," in the pre-verse of which, Manson harmonizes with exactly fifteen "doos" each time it is sung. Other notes of interest on the number 15 include the fact that Marilyn Manson's birthday is January 5 (1/5), when inserted into a computer 15 tracks appear on the album, The Devil's Tarot card is XV (15), and the album's release date was September 15 (or 9/15, which is 9+1+5=15). Also, throughout the CD booklet, there are simple multiplication facts accompanied with letters. 3x5=15 and "ma," which are the initials for "Mechanical Animals.". Fifteen is also the magic constant of the unique order-3 normal magic square, attributed to Saturn in Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Two scales of measurement often used in TBI diagnosis to determine the level of coma are the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) and the Ranchos Los Amigos Scale (RLAS). The GCS is a simple 15-point scale used by medical professionals to assess severity of neurological trauma, and establish a prognosis. The time of the tracks "Great Big White World" and "The Last Day on Earth" are both 5:01. Perhaps the number is meant to be interpreted as the expression 15 minutes of fame coined by Andy Warhol, which is referred to in the lyrics of "I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)", and which is a recurring theme in the band's follow-up album, Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death). The number "15" is also going to be explored on the bands new album The High End of Low, where the last song is called "15" and the cover of the first single, "We're from America" also show the "i" on Marilyn replaced by a 1 and the "s" on Manson covered by a 5.
The controversial album cover has won critical acclaim and numerous awards. The infamous photo is the brainchild of long-time Manson photographer Joseph Cultice, of New York City. Contrary to popular internet rumours, the band leader, Manson, did not undergo any plastic surgery for this androgynous, alien look. The breasts are prosthetic, manufactured specially by George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic. Interestingly, Manson has stated in interviews that Johnny Depp is the current owner of these prosthetic breasts, while Manson himself owns Johnny's strawberry-blonde wig worn in the film Blow. Manson is in reality, naked, and covered head to toe in latex paint, provided by the same movie make-up company. His genitalia are covered by a thin cup of plastic to create the androgynous appearance of the alien figure he calls Omēga.
The album also features an alternate, less "obscene" cover which is contained on the reverse side of the album liner notes. It is coincidentally, the cover for an album of the same name by Omēga and the Mechanical Animals, a fictitious band composed of characters played by the members of Marilyn Manson. The photo featured on this alternate cover art is a prime example of dissimulation, or the psycho-artistic method of distributing knowledge or ideas in plain view, but in a way that only certain members of the mass public can comprehend, often with multiple meanings present; one meaning for the select few who understand, and another meaning for the masses. An example from this image is the haunting, still unsolved symbolism of the numeral 15; Manson quite cunningly hides the figure 5 in plain view, including the five syringes edited into the background behind him, the number of fingers he holds up, the number of visible buttons on his suit, et cetera.
The liner notes contain hidden message in yellow text, which are viewable through the blue CD packaging or the transparent blue LP; these messages (now green) include: "www.comawhite.com" (website No longer available), "I no longer knew if Coma White was real or just a side effect," "now children it's time for recess, please roll up your sleeves," "A sun with no planets, burning in circles", and "Even machines can see that we are dead.")
A limited tour edition of Mechanical Animals was released in the UK (including other locations like Australia and even Mexico, where only 100 copies of this edition arrived) with an illustrated hardcover sleeve by Marcus Wild. Though limited edition, the album is easily attainable in certain regions. The packaging is identical to the original version except for the bonus eight-page comic book by Wild, illustrating scenes from the "I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)" music video.
Arguably, this album's most successful song is "The Dope Show," which fared extremely well on both video and single charts in the United States and abroad. "The Dope Show" was written by Manson (lyrics) and Twiggy Ramirez (music). It continues to reign as the band's most commercially successful song. "The music video debuted the band's controversial new, androgynous glam rock image to the world. It is inspired by Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain, a controversial art film, as well as the David Bowie film, The Man Who Fell to Earth. Again, Bowie's influence has been enormous on this album, with both influences noted publicly by Manson himself.
This album features a hidden, fifteenth track, playable only on a computer; it is untitled and experimental, further playing on the album's theme of the character Omēga and conformity. Upon entering the album into a computer, an autorun file starts a program that displays two of Manson's paintings while the song plays in the background. It is thought to be an experiment in synesthesia.
When released on September 15, 1998, the album was immediately boycotted by the Wal-Mart corporation, citing "obscenity" in the album's cover artwork. To combat this, Nothing Records issued another edition, featuring the album's title superimposed over Manson's "breasts." Wal-Mart still refused to sell the album, and consequently pulled all previous albums by Manson in light of the Columbine tragedy on April 20, 1999 (after the release of Mechanical Animals, and after the cover controversy). To this day, Wal-Mart's corporate website states that Manson's work, among the work of other artists, will not be sold in their stores, but 2003 saw the mass sale of Manson's fifth LP, The Golden Age of Grotesque in nearly all Wal-Marts; representatives claim they chose to sell this latest album by the "shock-rocker" because it was to be "commercially viable" and was "on the Top Ten charts." Likewise, before the release of the album, a number of groups raised concerns about the track "Great Big White World" possibly being a racially-motivated reference until Manson himself cleared up the rumors by stating that it was about cocaine.
The third single, Rock is Dead, was featured in The Matrix: Music from the Motion Picture, soundtrack album for the film The Matrix—the song is played during the credits.
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