Pop: This Week's Album Releases

MARILYN MANSON

Mechanical Animals

Nothing/Universal/Interscope

IN CASE you've been off-planet the past few years, Marilyn Manson is the latest American androgyne perv bogeyman, sent to terrify liberals just as much as right-wing fundamentalists. Glorifying in their anathematical stance as regards religion, morality and society in general, Marilyn and his band bear out the old Jefferson Airplane cod-revolutionary boast that "Everything they say we are, we are", diligently seeking out new and hideous forms of degradation to celebrate. And if they run out of ideas, well, so much the better. As Marilyn sneers here: "I was a nihilist, and now I'm just too fucking bored."

Following swiftly on the heels of the band's stop-gap Remix And Repent package, Mechanical Animals offers a more sinister take on the same theme as Radiohead's "Paranoid Android", depicting a modern world in which the more noble aspects of humanity have been worn threadbare by drugs and a fixation with celebrity sleaze. Which is fair enough in principle, except that even a Sunday Sport gossip columnist would have to go some to be quite as obsessed with sleaze and drugs as Marilyn Manson him/themselves. The centrepiece here is the single "The Dope Show", in which, to a backing of chunky, rough-trade rock, celebrity is celebrated as narcotic in nature. To illustrate this, the band are represented in the CD booklet as a fictive unit called Omega And The Mechanical Animals, a thinly-disguised take on Ziggy and the Spiders.

This is the shortcoming of Mechanical Animals. For all its brusque musicality - former Material singer Michael Beinhorn's production certainly gives it the focused power largely absent from its Trent Reznor-produced predecessor - it's still essentially just a retread of ideas done to death by glam and punk. As Marilyn admits in "Rock Is Dead", "Rock is deader than dead/Shock is all in your head/Your sex and your dope is all that we're fed". Which leaves them in the gutter, staring at the stars like all self-romanticising bohemians. Except that in Marilyn's view, "In space the stars are no nearer/They just glitter like a morgue". Cheers!

EELS

Electro-Shock Blues

DreamWorks

LIKE LOU Reed's rather more sombre Magic And Loss, Electro-Shock Blues is a series of reactions to the creeping mortality claiming the friends and family of Eels' songwriter E. He starts with a lovely little ditty about his sister's suicide, "Elizabeth On The Bathroom Floor", and just keeps on chuckling: "Cancer For The Cure", "Hospital Food", "My Descent Into Madness", "Going To Your Funeral" (Parts 1 and 2) - a parade of occasionally droll melancholia dressed in whimsical, Beck-ish backings. It's an intelligent innocent's impressions of illness and bereavement, the depth of grief betrayed by the deceptive flippancy of the CD booklet cartoons, particularly that of a tombstone bearing the inscription "Sing Along At Home". Dead funny, eh?

This is dark, dark stuff, unflinching in its detail - "So I know you're going pretty soon/Radiation sore throat got your tongue" - yet drily elegant in its emotional responses; but like the Lou Reed album, it's ultimately of questionable appeal outside the context of E's therapeutic needs. It does, however, allow him to join Marilyn Manson in viewing drugs as a metaphor for society, though in his case rather less recreational than medicational. Here's hoping for all our sakes that the numbness which settled with "Novocaine For The Soul" really is lifting with the penultimate track, "The Medication Is Wearing Off".

FAITHLESS

Sunday 8pm

Cheeky

THIS EAGERLY-awaited follow-up to 1996's multi-million-selling Reverence holds no great surprises, unless sustained excellence is so rare as to be surprising. Faithless blends its diverse talents - the keyboard skills of Sister Bliss, the understated rapping of Maxi Jazz, the songwriting of Jamie Catto and the programming of Rollo (who co-produces with Sister Bliss) into poised, Massive Attack-style grooves, carefully augmented here by strings, percussion, and the unobtrusive guitar of Dave Randall.

Opening with the pastoral instrumental, "The Garden", as delicate as dew on spiders webs at dawn, Sunday 8pm reaches its peak with "I Want My Family Back", a crepuscular creep through murky streets, featuring Maxi's deadpan, clear-eyed rap about the pervasive anxiety of our society: "A crash in the economy robbed me of my family/And no strategy combats negative equity/So that's it/Like violence, it's drastic". A subtle, intelligent performance which helps restore faith in a genre tiresomely prone to violent boasting and sexist crowing. Elsewhere, guest vocalists Boy George, Rachael Brown and Dido provide alternative focuses of interest, the latter most impressively on "Hem Of His Garment", turning the old gospel plea inside out by admitting she has been "touched by the hem of his garment".

THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS

Brothers Gonna Work It Out

Freestyle Dust/Virgin

NOT THE third Chemical Brothers album proper, but that least enticing of contemporary artforms, a DJ Mix album. But where some DJ mixes barely even bother to segue properly between their bought-by-the-batch disco cuts, in Tom and Ed's case it's more appropriate to talk in terms of sound sculpture. Here, they offer five tracks of between 10 and 20 minutes apiece, each mixed from about the same number of records, with fragments from such as Kenny Dope, Love Corporation and the Unique 3 spun into new sonic concoctions.

The most entertaining is probably the opening mix, which effortlessly spans decades by blending Willie Hutch's "Brother's Gonna Work It Out" with the Jimmy Castor Bunch's "It's Just Begun" and a couple of the Brothers' own numbers; and the fourth track, on which they pay homage to influences like Renegade Soundwave and Meat Beat Manifesto, with the latter's "Mars Needs Women" answered by the cry of "I want my planet back" from Dubtribe Sound System's "Mother Earth". Also included are their charmingly idiosyncratic remixes of the Manics' "Everything Must Go" - from which just about everything has indeed gone - and Spiritualized's "I Think I'm In Love", which brings things to a suitably chilled conclusion.

SHERYL CROW

The Globe Sessions

A&M

HER THIRD album extends Sheryl Crow's songcraft in several directions, the most appealing of which is the warm, rolling "It Don't Hurt", a carnival whirl of organ, autoharp, violin and National guitar whipped to a light froth by Crow and mixer Tchad Blake. Less appealing is the streak of Alanis- style psychodrama that has crept into songs like "Am I Getting Through (Parts I & II)", a fearsome harangue rather like overhearing an argument in a restaurant.

In between are more of the sort of songs which are Crow's stock-in-trade: glib, oddly pointless tales which sound like songs, but not in any compelling sense. There's no suggestion that you might encounter mystery or revelation in them, just a shaggy-dog narrative with an attitude. She encapsulates her own problem in the Tinseltown shallowness of "There Goes The Neighborhood", where "the movie of the screenplay of a book about a girl who loved a junkie" swiftly degenerates into apathetic irony: "We can't be certain who the villains are 'cos everyone's so pretty/But the after-party's sure to be a wing-ding as it moves into your city." The new Dylan song, "Mississippi", a singalong romp, lent a curious gipsy flavour by violin and Chamberlain strings, rather shows up her material - and shows that Bob can still crank out a surefire hit if the fancy takes him, too.

Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'