Wednesday, March 2, 2016

These Are the Dying Years

More high school musical memories coming (20 years since Freshman year).  Bear with me:

I heard this song for the first time in what seemed like eons the other day.  As a goof, my initial thought was that it should be the Donald Trump campaign theme song.  As the song progressed though, it resonated stronger and stronger with everything that has been happening. When it finally built to the climax, a moment before the final refrain of the chorus where Manson declares, almost under his breath, that  "History is written by winners", I got chills.

Antichrist superstar is an album about demagoguery.  In this instance, it takes the form of the making of a rock star from awkward and disturbed childhood to larger-than-life fame, but the crux of the album is about the cult of celebrity and how much power can come from the validation/narcissism complex.  It often gets deeply personal in the ways it tackles surviving abuse, but it's also about the ugly ways in which abuse can have deep ramifications if it cannot be dealt with appropriately.  This may be why it became such an intense emotional statement for the kids who flocked to it.  Its core audience were rejects, throwaway teens who'd either transgressed in some way or who'd been culturally deformed by their elders.  In the absence of proper support, they turned to Manson and any criticism aimed at him would backfire because he had understood them when those who'd pledged to do so failed miserably.

In a way, music has shied away from these kinds of transmissions from deep in the blackened heart of the American nightmare in recent years.  One thing the 80s and 90s underground was really good at was connecting the threads of all these currents of "Apocalypse Culture" and finding that dark root, the Jungian shadow of neglect and misuse, which operates surrogate from conventional political reality. Underground Music has shifted to such an abstract place that lyrics are either impenetrable or esoteric and mostly tertiary.  So those who may have formerly found refuge in or sublimated anguish into art are left with a scattered landscape offering various disconnected methods of escape- Trump, 4chan troll culture, mass shootings, MRA, Silk Road, gun rallies, Dawkins style anti-theism, et al.

Manson had talked for years before his fame about making this huge statement album, which he had already dubbed "Antichrist Superstar" in a kind of cheeky allusion to Andrew Lloyd Weber's Jesus Christ Superstar.  Whereas that musical forecasted the revolutionary spirit of flower power as an extension of the message of Christ (and specifically tapped into the "Jesus Freak" movement to do so), Manson's Antichrist Superstar would be an inverse of that, the album fixating on the physical flip that had converted '69 into '96.  His goal, which was quite successful, was to become the biggest rock star in the country and to prove how idolatry could be used for any means.  And he did it.  He became the biggest figure in the country. Mass hysteria ensued, particularly in the (understandably) jolted Evangelical community who saw him evoking Satan to hordes of adoring youth. He came to dominate the news cycle post-OJ and soon became a "problem to be fixed" by many conservatives powers that were (and some that still are).

However, despite rallying up for the release of an event album and its subsequent impact as his life's work, Manson never provided an out for himself.  He hadn't planned for a sequel.  I legitimately think he thought that he'd be assassinated and become some kind of martyr for his beliefs.  I remember prevalent rumors about him planning a suicide act on stage.  His shows carried the hint of danger and were occasionally the site of bomb threats by the Christian right.   The lyric sheet for "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" lists that it was recorded live on February 14, 1997 (4 months after the album was released), suggesting some kind of future event to look out for, in additional to making it a kind of anti-Valentines day anthem.  When none of this happened though, things sort of petered out for Manson.  He made one okay LP afterwards and then began a slow descent into a punchline.  When all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed.

So much of Trump's rhetoric and nihilist thought streams can absorbed though through this album's prism.  The very anthemic "Fuck it" and "I wasn't born with enough middle fingers" of the opening cut seems to be his and his follower's mantra.  Trump is not so much pro-anything as he can "never [have] enough for anti-more".  And "capitalism has made it this way" but Trump ensures us that, even though he is one of the "horrible people", "Old fashioned fascism will take it away" so "hate every motherfucker that's in your way".  I could legitimately see Trump saying "you live with apes, man, it's hard to be clean."

Trump is not any kind of constructive force in the world. He's a negative ion. He doesn't add any substantial value, he just inverts, which is a what the death knell of society in "the dying years" would aspire to.  He will "hate the haters" (note that this was written well before "hater" become popular parlance in pop culture) and even "rape the raper" and negate every single thing that flies towards him that isn't a pat on the back because "I can't believe in the things that don't believe in me"

If we're on our way down now, Trump would like to take us with him.  When we are suffering, we'll know that he has betrayed us.

If it's not loud and clear enough, here it is: Trump is the fucking antichrist.  But he's our antichrist, our superstar.  "Whose mistake am I anyway?"

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