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Marilyn Manson's music has dark inspirations

Singer’s ”Smells Like Children” has mass appeal and plenty of critics

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He sings about scabs, sodomy, and urine. He enjoys ripping his skin with broken bottles. And compares his music to an act of murder. Any authorities who don’t like it, he says, ”should kill themselves.”

You think the guy wants attention or what?

Not since Alice Cooper in the ’70s has a rock star presented himself as such an eager figure of revulsion as Marilyn Manson. While current gangsta rappers like 2Pac and Goth rockers like Nine Inch Nails merely voice ugly emotions, Manson (and his namesake band) makes them grotesquely visual. And it’s starting to pay off. The Manson family’s second communique, Smells Like Children, recently spawned a hit with a cover version of Eurythmics’ breezy ode to S&M, ”Sweet Dreams,” helping the album go top 40.

”It’s really, really mass appeal,” says Hits magazine editor Karen Glauber, who believes Manson’s attraction lies not in the taboo content but in the band’s cartoonish appearance. ”Little kids just love them. They think they’re the coolest.”

Not everyone finds them so cool. Famed rap and rock foe C. Delores Tucker has tarred Children as ”the dirtiest, nastiest porno record directed at youth that has ever hit the market.” To date, that ”porno record” has sold more than 400,000 copies.

According to Manson, Tucker simply misses his ”irony,” though the industrial-rock singer admits, ”My rules and moralities are probably different from a lot of other people’s.”

At least they are when he presents them to the media. Unlike Cooper, who clearly defined his straitjacket-wearing persona as a stage construction, Manson draws few such distinctions, letting only a handful of believable biographical details slip out. Born Brian Warner 27 years ago to a nurse and a furniture salesman in Canton, Ohio, he survived a parochial school upbringing by mainlining the music of Black Sabbath, KISS, Iggy Pop, and the like. When discussing his wonder years, Manson prefers to focus on more suspect tales — like those about the relative who allegedly exposed him to bestiality-based porn, the neighborhood boy who abused him with a game called ”prison,” or the Agent Orange his dad may have inhaled in Vietnam (which, he admits, may explain a lot).

Ever alert to shoring up his out-there reputation, Manson likes to dispense quotes as if they were pronouncements from hell. ”Marilyn Manson is God’s punishment for the sins you created yourselves,” he says at one point. At another, he ventures a prediction: ”My next record will bring about either the demise of Marilyn Manson or the end of the world.”

Stay tuned.