Why Marilyn Manson's 'Mechanical Animals' Is the Greatest Album of All Time | Revolver

Why Marilyn Manson's 'Mechanical Animals' Is the Greatest Album of All Time

These were songs I didn't know I needed and ended up needing more than anything in the world
marilyn manson 1999 GETTY, Martin Philbey/Redferns
Marilyn Manson, 1999
photograph by Martin Philbey/Redferns

Sara Taylor — a.k.a. "Revolver's resident Spooky Kid" — is the singer of L.A. industrial duo Youth Code. Their most recent album, Commitment to Complications, is out now via Dais Records. They are currently working on its follow-up.

The year is 1998. Thirteen-year-old Sara Taylor was truly starting to evolve from troubled child to the beginning stages of hellion young adulthood. By this time in my life, I was already deep down the rabbit hole of being a Mansonite. Albeit not allowed to dye my hair black, I had older friends who let me borrow their spike collars and wore powder white foundation and black lipstick. I had etched "DEAD TO THE WORLD" into my forearm with a really dull knife. I was actively involved in late-night chats with other spooky kids online through the struggle of a 14.4K modem and while my mother was asleep, and I had already waited in line for four hours to get my copy of The Long Hard Road Out of Hell autographed at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd. (I also gave Manson an invitation to my soon-to-be 13th birthday party — it was 20 years ago and I still haven't gotten my reply, little miffed about it because I really went in on drawing those blood drops and cobwebs, but OH WELL).

sara taylor youth code manson collection, Sara Taylor
Sara Taylor with her 'Mechanical Animals' collection
courtesy of Sara Taylor

There was NOTHING that excited me more than the news of a new album from the most revered musician in my young and angst filled life. For those not around in the Nineties, let me quickly inform you of something — there will never EVER be another celebrity who had the power and terror that Manson held between 1996-1998. Entire church communities were actually terrified that this was The Devil. He had INSANE rumors made up about him ranging from a role on Mr. Belvedere to surgical self-fellatio, and even moderately sensible parents kept their kids at bay from this man. The world had previously experienced things like Elvis shaking his hips and women fainting to the Beatles, but this was pure unadulterated terror and I couldn't have eaten it up more. Back in this day, at least for me, the internet was EXTREMELY scarce (as stated with my after-hours chat room romps on a slow-ass dial-up modem) and MTV and Hit Parader provided me with my anticipation ramp-ups for upcoming music. Something big was about to happen when rumors of a new Manson record started to emerge. And then it happened ... the first time I saw the cover of the new Manson release for Mechanical Animals. Gone was my stringy black-haired, self-harming heartthrob, and in his place a gender-fluid alien figure with red chopped-up locks. What the fuck was happening? Who was this creature? I kept searching for answers amongst my friends and no one had a clue what was going on. It was as if our fishnet shirts and self-harm got left in the wind and our Messiah had moved on to the next planet.

I could hardly wait to figure out what the fuck was going on and set my VCR to record the MTV VMAs for his debut performance back and find out more. A couple days after that, I set it again to MTV Live with Carson Daly to find out more after witnessing "The Dope Show" in all its live glory. Here it was, an interview and the premiere of "The Dope Show" video, the lead single off of was what to be my favorite all-time record, Mechanical Animals. At the time of viewing this, though? I was shook. I didn't know how to respond. I had spent the last three years hating my parents and everything they stood for and then this funky David Bowie­–inspired cut comes barreling toward my brain and everything I knew previously was shattered. From what I remember, everyone was shook. People couldn't believe what they were hearing or seeing. The press was panning my favorite artist and I didn't want to believe a word they said. Upon purchasing the album, I immediately dove in.

Lyrically, everything was exactly how I felt, but it had a different timbre this time. Gone was the malevolence of the previous eras, and in its place was something intelligent and at times melancholy. The hollow guitar tones of "Great Big White World" cut harder than any lyric I had previously carved into me. "We used to love ourselves/We used to love one another." Manson? Is that you? The same Manson as "I wasn't born with enough middle fingers"? But it was, and the magic of this human went further and further with every single track. You, of course, had a few songs that served to appease the existing fan base on there, like "Rock Is Dead" and "New Model No.15," but the majority of this release had a depth and pain like no other. See, I could break down every individual song on this record, but the true magic of it is how much it saved me in ways nothing else could've at the time. "The Speed of Pain" and "The Last Day on Earth" were the songs I didn't know I needed and ended up needing more than anything in the world.

The anguish of Manson was a similar torment that I had felt inside of me and didn't know how to get out. I knew the internal dialogue of destroying everything, but was too young to understand that I was destroying myself. Then, here comes this opus that not only opened me up to being more susceptible to different types of music, but also instilled a certain sense of confidence that it was OK to be sad and, also, angry. The Last Tour on Earth mini-TV features with John Norris made me smile. The brevity of the songs made me cry. I knew that he had proven — once again — why he was the greatest artist of our world thus far.

David Bowie was clearly the rock-chameleon forefather, with his ability to change stylistically throughout time without repercussions. However, Manson took the torch and has run blazingly toward the sun from this record onward. The artist formerly known for shock-rock antics has continued to change persona from record to record. Whether he is the cocky and depraved crooner Omega or the casual and careless lover on Eat Me, Drink Me, he, time after time, shapeshifts in a way that most current artists don't have the ability to do. I can't think of a record that, to this day, I can look to and feel every single note and word as hard as I can with Mechanical Animals — which, in my opinion, is the greatest record of all time.