Album: Marilyn Manson ***

The Golden Age of the Grotesque, Polydor

Marilyn Manson is the Goth equivalent of Michael Moore, picking away at the scabs of the American social fabric, banging on about how corrupt and decadent and necropolitan the home of the brave has become. The Golden Age of Grotesque is in effect the same album Manson's band has released every few years since 1996's Antichrist Superstar, suggesting that, for them at least, the golden age of grotesque has lasted the better part of a decade now. Still, at least Manson brings a louche wit and grisly relish to his misanthropy, with lines such as, "We're the Low Art Gloominati/ And we aim to depress," and, "We set fashion, not follow/ Spit vitriol, not swallow." Sure, his puns can be excruciating – titles such as "mOBSCENE", "Para-Noir" and "Vodevil" (Vaudeville – get it?) and whiskery old gags such as, "Be obscene, baby, and not heard" – but then, isn't that the point of puns? Of greater concern is the stagnant state of the band's quaking techno-rock, which hasn't broken new ground since last millennium, and the similarly moribund range of issues, chosen as usual to reflect the gaudy, superficial excesses of American culture, rather than any deeper, political undercurrents. Amazingly, for such an avid social critic as Manson, there is no mention here of September 11, al-Qa'ida or terrorism – a bit too authentically horrifying, perhaps, for his pantomime of perversion.