Charles Manson - Air (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Charles Manson

Air (2010)

Magic Bullet

It's worth noting that Charles Manson's most famous recording, LIE: The Love & Terror Cult (cut in 1967; released in 1970), has received fairly positive reviews for its admittedly well-done collision of psychedelia and folk. If one can keep an open mind, it's easy to separate the man as a talented composer from the horrendous acts he perpetrated. (And if you somehow have no idea what I'm talking about, pay a visit to Wikipedia, and try to enjoy prom.) That being said, the 76-year-old Manson has a (relatively) new album out called Air...and it's really, really boring.

Air is supposedly the first record in a series of albums conceptually extending from Manson's personal environmental beliefs. (Though there seems to be little ground made on releasing the second installment, Trees, from a cursory Googling.) But lyrically, it's hard to grasp exactly what advice Manson is trying to convey, or what we should do to heed his probable recommendation to consume more efficiently (or not at all?).

Musically, it's just Manson and his guitar, and it's probably generous to call his languid folk songs Delta Blues: His guitar playing is so slow and stagnant it's anxiety inducing; every song flows with the movement of molasses; and Manson doesn't so much sing as he does mumble and ramble, usually incoherently. There's some sort of rhythm and melody suddenly established in "Bird", but otherwise, the tracks are pretty hard to distinguish. Manson starts to blather like some sad, Alzheimer's afflicted version of George Carlin over loose, scattershot strums in "Gas Chamber". And with "World Perspectives" and "Air Is the King", it's almost as though Air devolves into a traipsing spoken-word album. Yeah, he's passionate about this, but he has some trouble conveying it...or making it remotely relatable. "East Bound Train" actually feels like a song, but it cuts out quickly and meanders to its end.

Okay, sure: The conditions Air was recorded in are vastly different from LIE. Where LIE involved a session at a professional recording studio with a Beach Boy, Air is raw and home(prison-)made, with a steady level of tape hiss riding the audio. But there are countless singer-songwriters who have flourished in these conditions, with both limited production and social isolation, and been able to come out with records that are purely heartwrenching, or lyrically or musically interesting. Air is not one of these records, and Charles Manson is not one of these singer-songwriters–at least, not in 2010, and probably not in 2011, either.

East Bound Train