Album: Portrait Of An American Family
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Though it is sometimes unjust, there are a handful of cases across music history where the persona or actions of a musician outshine their achievements as a performer. While in some instances, this is a good thing, as their musical talent may have been lacking, there is at least one situation where the reputation given by "the general public" seemed to slightly alter a performer's sound, and certainly overshadowed their musical achievements. Though he stands as one of the most impressive heavy metal frontmen in history, it is a sad case that this is not the first thing that comes to mind when most people thing of Marilyn Manson. Due to his over-the-top persona and apparently controversial subject matters, it is his personality that seems far more well known than the fantastic work that he and his band have recorded over the past two decades. Making himself into the easiest target for right-wing ignorance with his 1996 release, Antichrist Superstar, those who were longtime fans of the band will agree that while this record was good, it was perhaps his second best album. As is the case with many groups, it is the debut album that best represents the true spirit of the band, and this is certainly true with Marilyn Manson's 1994 record, Portrait Of An American Family. Filled with overly aggressive riffs and lyrics, the album is an absolute classic, and one can experience the true musical brilliance of Marilyn Manson in their 1994 single, "Lunchbox."
Though it may be the most overlooked aspect of Marilyn Manson as a band, the fact of the matter is, as early as their debut record, the band members were already showing off their talents in the fact that nearly every one of them played multiple instruments on the album. Though Twiggy Ramirez (AKA Jeordie White) contributes both bass and guitar parts, it is the performance of Daisy Berkowitz (AKA Scott Putesky) that stands as the high-point of "Lunchbox." From the moment the distorted opening riff begins, the aggression and energy of the song is immediately clear. The dual guitar sound that follows makes the song quite distinctive, and at times, it almost sounds as if the song itself is rearing back, ready to attack the listener. The dark, deep, grooving bassline from Gidget Gein (AKA Brad Stewart) on "Lunchbox" is without question one of the finest moments of his career, as it is just as intimidating as the guitar, and the trio of guitarists show that Marilyn Manson is far more than just "an image." Add in drummer Sara Lee Lucas (AKA Fredrick Streithorst) and multi-instrumentalist Madonna Wayne Gacy (AKA Stephen Bier), and both literally and figuratively, you have one of the most fearsome bands in music history. The way in which they move as a single unit, creating a beautifully destructive sound, is what makes "Lunchbox" so amazing as well as proves the exceptional level of talent within the band, and it is this aspect that is often lost behind the image the they put forth.
Yet even as fantastic as the musical performance is on "Lunchbox," there is simply nothing in Marilyn Manson that shines brighter than their lead singer and the bands namesake. Without question one of the most unmistakable and unforgettable personalities of his generation, Marilyn Manson (AKA Brian Warner) has proven that he has both the presence and vocal power to endure nearly two decades in a genre that rarely has bands with such a lifespan. Working a large vocal range in his distinctive ranting and screaming style, Manson proves to have an understanding of the dramatic vocal approach which is far beyond that of most of his peers. Furthermore, on a majority of his early songs, one can sense a very close relationship between Manson and the lyrics which he sings, indicating that he was likely an outcast during his childhood. Though most of the songs of Marilyn Manson have an "anti-everyone" feel, on "Lunchbox," Manson turns back the clock, bringing one of the most intense stories of childhood bullying that has ever been recorded. While the opening lines are, "...the big bully try to stick his finger in my chest, try to tell me, tell me he's the best...," there is a sense of rebellion in the words, and Manson paints his character as one ready to take down the bully by any means necessary. In many ways, the song has become an anthem of the outcast, and it is Manson's almost hypnotic performance that makes the song remain such a classic nearly two decades later.
Truth be told, while it may seem like a slightly stereotypical song at face value, "Lunchbox" directly attacks a rather controversial moment in history. In 1972, the U.S. Government officially banned metal lunchboxes in schools, as they were being used as crude weapons by many children. This idea can be heard in the repeated line, "...I've got my lunchbox and I'm armed real well...," and the mood set by the band certainly reflects this intent. Furthermore, when Manson sings, "...I wanna grow up, I wanna be a big rock and roll star...," it is in fact a nod to one of Manson's own heroes, Nikki Sixx of the band Mötley Crüe. Even without these two pieces of knowledge, "Lunchbox" stands as one of the most powerful heavy metal songs ever recorded, and it was almost instantly condemned by conservative parents and politicians due to its content, as well as its extremely aggressive nature. In many ways, it is these two things that have created the persona that now follows Marilyn Manson, and it has somewhat overshadowed the fact that he and his band make some of the most unapologetic, yet complex and pioneering music of their generation. With most of the band members able to easily switch instruments, it gives the music of Marilyn Manson far more of a diverse sound that nearly any of their peers, and yet the intensity and authenticity behind the music never seem to vary. Though they are certainly better known for their later, more controversial work, the fact of the matter is, one can quickly understand why Marilyn Manson stand today as one of the finest heavy metal bands in history by experiencing their brilliant 1994 song, "Lunchbox."