Headline from “THE ONION” a few years back: MARILYN MANSON NOW GOING DOOR-TO-DOOR TO SHOCK PEOPLE. It’s been a while since the Halloween homeboy’s combo of freak-show antics and Alice Cooper records scared anybody, and Manson’s last few albums — long on bombastic industrial metal — were as predictable as a Big Mac. He hasn’t exactly overhauled his identity, but with Eat Me, Drink Me, he’s at least tweaked his approach a bit. Recorded at a home studio with just one buddy, Eat Me, Drink Me is the closest Manson will ever get to unplugged. It’s still plenty dark, with Manson dishing about vampires and mutilation in a horror-ific croak that’s rougher than ever. But, for Manson at least, it sounds pretty spare and oddly matter-of-fact without the huge, schlocky choruses and high-gloss production. Forget what you know about this guy and it’ll come off like a decent, and rather efficient, little goth-pop record.
Manson’s gift for darkening and reappropriating New Wave drama remains on cuts like “The Red Carpet Grave” and “Putting Holes in Happiness,” all grinding guitars and trashy synths, with Manson spitting personal pain and decently gripping, if ragged, melodies. Elsewhere, as on the single “Heart-Shaped Glasses,” Manson sounds like a suicidal Billy Idol, tossing off trashy hooks with focus and some expertise. Some of Eat Me, Drink Me is ho-hum and bone-dry, with few hot choruses and even fewer chord changes. But unlike those breast implants he once had, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.