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Marilyn Manson, ‘Lest We Forget’ (Interscope)

Marilyn Manson is fucking awesome.

Nobody wants to believe it, but it’s true: His live show is awesome, his manufactured persona is awesome, and his singles (atleast the ones that came out after 1997, minus the uncreative covertunes) are–on the whole–pretty fucking awesome. As such, I hear nothing but validity inLest We Forget, a 17-track greatest-hits collection of Manson’s deeply self-conscious odes to depravity; he has at least as many top-shelf songs as Aerosmith.

The sad truth is that there are only about ten compelling metal acts out there right now, and Marilyn Manson is three of them. He doesn’t make heavy metal (like the Stooges or Iron Maiden or Tool);nor does he make lite metal (like T. Rex or Faster Pussycat or the Darkness). He makes malleable metal. It’s aluminum. But aluminum is important; we need it for siding and Mountain Dew cans and the College World Series. And it’s Manson’s malleability that makes him so universally useful.

Take, for example, the song “Disposable Teens”: To me, this is apost-Columbine critique of how social critics inevitably usefaceless teenage corpses as statistics, exploiting their lost lives in order to attack popular culture in any way they see fit. This is one potential reality. Another possibility is that “Disposable Teens” was Manson’s way of saying ‘N Sync sucked. Some people hope the former is true, and some people need to believe the latter–and this is why Marilyn Manson matters, even if both sides are wrong.

Granted, there are some boring stretches on Lest We Forget .Most of MM’s early material might as well be the work of the worst high-school joke band ever to crawl out of South Florida; 1996’s “The Beautiful People” is probably the first halfway-tolerable-to-normal-humans song Manson ever wrote. Also,Mechanical Animals –the glam-rock one where Manson had man-breasts–is under-represented on this collection, which is a baffling decision. But the high points on Lest We Forget are irrefutably stellar: “The Dope Show” offers sound advice for modern living, “mOBSCENE” rips off Faith No More with extreme prejudice,and “The Fight Song” might be the only single in pop history that actively makes me want to fight somebody. Brian Warner creates good music, somehow.

Fucking awesome, bitches.