Marilyn Manson is everywhere these days -- on television doing interviews, yukking it up with MTV talking heads, in bookstores promoting his autobiography. He even has his own AOL Keyword. But while publicity can be profitable, Manson knows familiarity breeds apathy, so he's traded in his faux-Fascist satan image for the last taboo he hasn't already recycled -- androgyny.
"Mechanical Animals" finds Manson glammed-up and gender-bending, complete with prosthetic breasts, feather boas and pancake makeup. Predictably, most of the album sounds like '70s David Bowie, particularly on "Great Big White World" and "Dope Show," which sound like Bowie's "Cracked Actor" and "The Jean Genie," respectively.
Manson has learned restraint, and on "I Want to Disappear" and "Rock is Dead" he proves he can write a wicked if not altogether original rock song when he's not trying to shock. Much more varied than previous albums, "Mechanical Animals" moves Manson out from behind Trent Reznor's shadow. But until he stops aping others, we'll never know how much talent there is behind the spectacle.