Coming up screaming from the depths of Florida -- there being no scarier state in the union -- Marilyn Manson cannily positioned themselves as a goth-industrial hybrid on their debut album, Portrait of an American Family. At this stage in their evolution, Marilyn Manson was clearly a band, not just the project of Brian Warner, aka Mr. Manson, who would later simply adopt his band's name as his own. Also, horror-show schlock was a bigger factor than it would be later on, when he wanted to be the Antichrist Superstar for the world at large. In other words, it's Manson at his silliest, singing about "My Monkey" and "Snake Eyes and Sissies." Beneath all the camp shock, there are signs of Warner's unerring eye for genuine outrage and musical talent, particularly on the trio of "Cake and Sodomy," "Lunchbox," and "Dope Hat." But even a few years on from its 1994 release, Portrait of an American Family began to sound a little dated, especially since its Nine Inch Nails-meets-W.A.S.P.-meets-Alice Cooper formula was fully realized on Manson's follow-up album, Antichrist Superstar. Here, it's in sketch form, and by the end of the album it's clear that Warner, Manson, whatever you want to call him, needs a full canvas to truly wreak havoc.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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