Rock/pop Clubs by Night
Rock/Pop Club Directory
Rock/Pop Bands in Town
Jazz Clubs by Night
Jazz Club Directory
Jazz Bands in Town
In their late-1990s heyday, the last thing anybody expected from rock degenerates Korn and Marilyn Manson was longevity. These are two acts who are no strangers to substance abuse. Yet they havenít let that aspect of their rock-and-roll lifestyle destroy them the way it did Alice In Chains. So here they are on the 10th anniversary of their respective major-label debuts, still on the road and releasing their first greatest-hits CDs. Fans are lining up at the cash registers for both: Kornís Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (Epic) just debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard album chart, as did Mansonís Lest We Forget (Interscope).
On one of Greatest Hits Vol. 1ís three new tracks, Korn take a stab at a trick that Manson has been specializing in for years by doing a hard-rock update of a Top 40 classic. The victim is Cameoís "Word Up!", a 1980s funk jam with which few Korn fans, itís safe to say, will be familiar. Teaming up with producer Toby Wright for the first time since the 1998 smash Follow the Leader, the band turn the surprise choice into a winner. They preserve the party vibe of the original with their nimble rhythms and neon melodies, and frontman Jonathan Davis takes on the "sucka DJs" in the second verse with a grin. In the goofy hit video, the guys get their faces superimposed onto a pack of dogs so they can look up girlsí skirts at a dance club.
Korn havenít always been so lighthearted, even if they have always been pervs. In recent interviews, the band have been hinting at the reason for their happiness: Greatest Hits Vol. 1 is the last album on their recording contract, and theyíre excited about the prospect of putting out music on their own. Not that their current disc is a toss-off: itís 76 minutes long, covers their entire career, and includes an authoritative biography.
Greatest Hits Vol. 1 is arranged in reverse-chronological order, going all the way back to the bandís trendsetting 1994 debut, Korn. Working with unseasoned producer Ross Robinson, the California kids built a bridge between the brooding alt-rock and savage underground metal of the day. Their signature tune, "Blind," spawned legions of imitators with its schizo guitars, hip-hop overtones, and paranoid vocal outbursts. The album was too heavy for radio, yet it had its grunge moments: in retrospect, the territorial pissing match "Clown" could pass for an early Nirvana outtake. The follow-up, Life Is Peachy (1996), gets shafted here, represented only by the gruff "A.D.I.D.A.S." and the scat-sung trifle "Twist." MTV had picked up on the band by then, thanks in part to their rap-influenced fashion sense.
Korn hit the jackpot with their third disc, Follow the Leader (1998), which topped the charts, won a Grammy, and sold more than five million copies to date. Grunge was over, allowing the band to remake rock radio in their own image with their first big hit, "Freak on a Leash." Along with its iconic speeding-bullet video, the track showed off Kornís newfound knack for melody with its sweeping chorus and Smashing PumpkinsĖstyle guitar flourishes. Issues appeared a year later; its four songs lead the pack on this compilation. The ferocious "Falling Away from Me" is prime Korn catharsis: the hook, "Beating me, beating me down, down/Into the ground," is Davis at his tormented finest, and the choral bridge brings sweet redemption. In the video, the group make an empathetic gesture to their middle-class fan base by playing for a teenage abuse victim in her bedroom.
The sobering effects of 9/11 dealt a serious blow to rage-rock debauchery ó one from which Kornís sales numbers have yet to recover. But the band refused to let the media and others bury them, returning a year later with the Grammy-winning Untouchables and the fuzzed-out classic "Here To Stay," which now stands as their biggest hit. From throbbing intro to surging chorus, the track is catchy without sacrificing the bandís trademark discord. In a recent interview with Revolver magazine, Davis gives part of the credit for its success to producer Michael Beinhorn: "It sucked so bad working with Beinhorn ó heís such a perfectionist! He makes everyoneís best album, but he puts you through hell to get it." Perhaps thatís why they produced last yearís Take a Look in the Mirror on their own, returning to their violent roots on the threatening hit "Right Now." The highlight of that disc is the defiant "Yíall Want a Single," on which the group give their A&R person a gleeful thrashing.
Greatest Hits Vol. 1 has two more exclusive cuts to go along with "Word Up!" Neither is as fun as that track, starting with the bandís pedestrian update of Pink Floydís "Another Brick in the Wall," the most amusing part of which is hearing them take a rare classic-rock guitar solo. The album ends with a dated dance mix of "Freak on a Leash" by producer Dante Ross (Everlast). Still, those are the only two lemons in a compilation that makes a strong case for Korn not only as stylistic innovators, but also as talented songwriters.
LIKE KORN, MANSON borrows his current hit from somebody elseís songbook. The lead single from Lest We Forget is a cover of Depeche Modeís "Personal Jesus," which is such an obvious choice itís amazing Manson waited this long to do it. He gives it the usual evil voice-over and a twitchy rhythm track, but he fails to make the song his own the way Korn do with "Word Up!" As is sometimes the case with Manson, the video is the main attraction. He flashes portraits of Bush and Hitler, he cradles a crying baby, he shows off the scars on his palms from being nailed to the cross. All striking images, but his ability to shock and awe has been dulled by familiarity.
That said, "Personal Jesus" is a goth-rock classic no matter whoís singing it, and Manson is still cool enough to do it justice. Check out the front cover of Lest We Forget for a watercolor self-portrait of the star with devil horns; on the back, thereís a freaky photo of him with eyelash extensions and crystal "gills" on his face. These days, Mansonís band includes long-time members Madonna Wayne Gacy and Ginger Fish, along with current writing-and-production foil Tim Skold. For Mansonís show last week at Avalon, in Boston, drummer Chris Vrenna (Nine Inch Nails) subbed for the injured Fish. And guitarist Mark Chaussee (Rob Halford) is filling in for John 5, who just finished a five-year stint with the band (and who has a solo album in progress).
Lest We Forget separates the songs from the spectacle, and the music does a pretty good job of standing on its own ó just donít believe Spin magazineís preposterous recent claim that he "has at least as many top-shelf songs as Aerosmith." Manson gives the disc a haphazard sequence, sometimes making it feel more like a studio album than a greatest-hits collection. Considering the long list of collaborators he has had over the years, thatís no small feat. Chief among those is Nine Inch Nailsí Trent Reznor, who got Manson a recording contract back when he was just another Florida scenester, and who produced his first handful of releases.
Looking back on his career, itís hard not to think Manson said it all in the chorus of his 1994 single "Lunchbox": "I want to grow up/Want to be/A big rock and roll star," followed by, "I want to grow up/I want to be/So no one fucks with me, yeah." On that track, the bandís funk-rock bluster has more in common with Janeís Addiction than NIN, but that was about to change. After infiltrating radio with a cover of the Eurythmicsí "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," Manson vaulted to stardom with Antichrist Superstar and the cyberpunk rager "The Beautiful People." Reznor has not joined him in the studio since, but their partnership has left its mark.
Manson gave credence to Kornís Beinhorn theory on his first number-one album, Mechanical Animals. On that disc, he and bassist Twiggy Ramirez (now in A Perfect Circle) continued their hot streak as a writing team with the glam-rock anthems "The Dope Show" and "Rock Is Dead." But itís the 2000 release Holy Wood, which places four songs on Lest We Forget, that appears to be Mansonís favorite. I agree: itís his heaviest studio effort, and the explosive "The Fight Song" should have been a hit. Last yearís The Golden Age of Grotesque proved he wasnít running out of compelling ideas, but replacing Ramirez with electro-whiz Skold took away some of his edge.
The two rarities on Lest We Forget are negligible: yet another hit cover (Soft Cellís "Tainted Love") and a clunker from the Spawn soundtrack. But opening and closing the disc with a pair of deep cuts both confrontational ("The Love Song") and disturbing ("The Reflecting God") was a good idea. Manson may not be as shocking as he used to be, but thatís okay ó while the media were busy feeding his lust for controversy, he managed to put together a strong body of work.
Issue Date: November 26 - December 2, 2004
Back to the Music table of contents
|© 2000 - 2013 Phoenix Media Communications Group|