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Monday, October 30, 2006

The lyrical resonance of Marilyn M.

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(and that's 'M' for Manson, not Monroe)

What do Marilyn Manson, Malaysian Democracy and the typical Malaysian driver have in common?

Image from,  hosting by PhotobucketWalski will answer that in due course, but first, a look at some resonating insights contained within the works of one very misunderstood artiste - Marilyn Manson. Because Malaysian commercial radio sucks big time, Walski listens to whatever's on the CD changer whenever in the car. Almost 90% of the time.

Currently in the changer are, among other thing, Nine Inch Nails, The Cocteau Twins, Killing Joke, and of course, Marilyn Manson. More specifically, the Mechanical Animals album.

Oddly enough, the lyrical content of this album resonates with Walski's feeling of what's been happening in Malaysia of late.

Ask any person you pick randomly from the crowd and ask them about Marilyn Manson, you'll either get a blank stare, or they'll immediately start talking about Marilyn Monroe instead, or they'll start rambling on and on about how evil this shock-rock outfit is.

Not surprising, really. The typical Malaysian probably has mush-fo-brains as far as music appreciation is concerned. Especially music that's pretty far off the commercial beaten track, like that of MM.
(lyrical wisdom and the common denominator in the full post)

The first lyrical nugget of resonance comes from the bridge (the in-between of verse & chorus) of Great Big White World.

Because it's a great big white world
And we are drained of our colors
We used to love ourselves,
We used to love one another

Maybe it's just Walski, but isn't this exactly what the anti-diversity religionist are doing? Irradicate any form of difference (by labelling them subversive or anti-Islamic) so that at the end of the day, Malaysia becomes the ideally drab, puritanically "white" nation of Islam.

No doubt, there are a number of problems plauging our nation. But using religion as the cure-all pancea is probably not going to produce the desired results palatable to all Malaysians. In pursuing religion-driven solutions, there is always a tendency to go overboard.

Religion aside, the music of Marilyn Manson, if one takes the trouble to listen beyond the shock value, reveals an underside of intelligence and social commentary. A lot of the songs talk about the numbing effects of the plastic commercial mainstream culture of America, and of course lambasting the (sometimes) damaging influence of the Bible-thumpers - the religious right that is exerting a clear influence on America.

Closer to home, though, the next resonating lines come from I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me) from the same album.

You and I are underdosed and we're ready to fall
Raised to be stupid, taught to be nothing at all
I don't like the drugs but the drugs like me
I don't like the drugs, the drugs, the drugs

What struck Walski was this thought: When you’re bombarded 24-7 about how life can only be lived with institutional crutches, and that certain oblivion is waiting if those crutches are taken away, how else are we expected to turn out? Crutch-dependent, what else. Either that, or you turn to something to numb the pain of non-conformity - drugs and alcohol, for example. When you're psyched up for failure, the likelihood of failing becomes all too real.

Any of this ring a bell? Without stating the obvious, Walski thinks you know exactly what Walski's on about, right?

A third and final example (there are tons more, by the way). This one's a little more on the lighter side of things, and just goes to show that the fascination that the common people have for celebrity-hood is universal. This one comes from The Dope Show.

They love you when youre on all the covers
When youre not then they love another

The point of putting this realization that Walski's had, is two-fold. First, and the more obvious one, is that music is universal, and usually talks about univerally applicable situations, despite the author being thousands of miles away, in a totally different culture. Some problems, and feelings, are there regardless of where one may physically be. It's just the universal beauty of music - even alternative, off-the-beaten-path music. Which goes a long way to explain why people of such varied backgrounds can be attracted to what a particular group or artiste has to speak about, through their music.

The second, and perhaps more important reason, is that most people only care to look at the surface of things they come across in life. In the case of Marilyn Manson, for example, it's really easy to be immediately put-off by how the group (and the frontman of the same name) looks like. This, of course, naturally leads to censorship - without even bothering to understand works of music, writing or art - we all know how The Malaysian Information Gestapo bans particular bands, and their music simply for how they appear. No need to bother with finding out what the band is all about, no need to actually listen - because they appear distasteful, it must mean they're a bad influence.

The same applies to books. Despite the fact that Malaysia has improved a few notches in the world press freedom rankings, everybody knows that books are still being banned. And if you take a look at the actual list (of books banned between 2002 and this year), it amazes Walski at the amount of "protection" our fragile little Malaysian minds are being given.

Walski believes in the saying "you reap what you sow". Book-banning - in fact any banning - simply sends a message that it's okay to not know. To not know is to be ignorant - so the message is, Walski supposes, that it's okay to be ignorant.

Makes sense, actually. The ignorant are the easiest to control and manipulate. And it's not at all surprising that Marilyn Manson's got something to say about that as well [from a different album this time - Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death). From a song called GodEatGod].

Before the bullets
Before the flies
Before authorities take out my eyes
The only smiling are you dolls that I made
But you are plastic and so are your brains

Oh, Walski almost forgot - the question we asked at the very beginning of this post: What do Marilyn Manson, Malaysian Democracy and the typical Malaysian driver have in common?

Well, depending on whom you ask, all three are abominations. Walski, however, would probably exclude Marilyn M.