It’s been more than 10 years since Marilyn Manson’s landmark album Antichrist Superstar, and in the time since, his image has gone from cartoonish freak intent on shocking the world and corrupting America’s youth to thoughtful social commentator who chats with Michael Moore and Bill O’Reilly and settles down with burlesque goddess Dita Von Teese. His music has similarly evolved. On Eat Me, Drink Me, Manson bares himself lyrically and explores new musical avenues, mostly leaving behind the heavy, violent style of his recent past. Having alienated nearly everyone he’s worked with over the years, Manson recorded the album with just one collaborator, bassist Tim Skold, whose guitar work is one of the record’s highlights. Though the songs are slower, most of them include catchy hooks, a necessary element in pop-metal and something that Manson forgot on his more recent efforts. The most notable departure is “Heart-Shaped Glasses,” with its poppy guitars, stuttering drums, and almost dance-rock feel; aside from the gloomy keyboards and vocals (distorted for maximum creepiness), it sounds like something by Franz Ferdinand or The Rapture.
The new wave elements are present to a lesser extent on harder-rocking songs like “Mutilation Is The Most Sincere Form Of Flattery” and “You And Me And The Devil Makes 3” (yes, the full-sentence song titles take a page from the emo handbook.) The latter song is one of several that touch on Manson’s marriage and subsequent divorce from Von Teese, as Manson writes about his personal life in his music for the first time. “The Red Carpet Grave” is perhaps the most confessional track, with Manson repeating the line, “I can’t turn my back on you, but you’re walking away.” Elsewhere, Manson contemplates cannibalism, imagines a car crash to take himself to a better place, and laments his history of failed romantic efforts: “I kill myself in small amounts/In each relationship it’s not about love/Just another funeral and just another girl left in tears.” “Putting Holes in Happiness” is the best of the autobiographical tracks, with a melancholic guitar riff that matches the song’s appropriately plodding arrangement. Hardcore fans may take offense to the lack of any songs challenging God, government, or society in general, but it’s their loss. Eat Me, Drink Me is a bona fide creative rebirth.