Worries that The High End Of Low would make the same mistakes as its predecessor were briefly allayed by the return of old foil Twiggy and the brilliant single-of-the-year contender 'Arma...geddon', a stomping mix of great riffs, gratuitous swearing and classic Manson lyrical swipes ("F**k making hits, I'm taking credit for the death toll"). Unfortunately, the single is something of a false dawn, sticking out a mile as one of the album's few saving graces. Another is opener 'Devour', which escapes its wimpish love song lyrics and quiet-loud-quiet clichés to pack a thumping rock punch when it finally gets going. The nine-minute 'I Want To Kill You Like They Do In The Movies' manages to stay brooding rather than boring, while 'We're From America' is a fantastic combination of pace, tension and aggression.
The problem is that these highlights are obscured by too many dreary and self-conscious straightforward rock songs. Tracks like 'I Have To Look Up Just To See Hell', 'Blank And White' and 'Into The Fire' offer lashings of dark atmosphere but precious little else. 'Running To The End Of The World' is a proper lighters-in-the-air ballad, but with Manson's affected croak that's not such a good thing. Arguments that the band need to broaden their musical palette are understandable, but the softer tracks here just don't stand up to scrutiny against the equally slow-paced 'Great Big White World' and 'Coma White' from Mechanical Animals, or Holy Wood's standout 'The Nobodies'.
This album is also far too long, as are many of its tracks, but it would need more than editing to achieve its clearly grandiose ambitions. Manson's career highlights saw the band synthesise hard rock, metal, glam, industrial, power pop and good-old fashioned rock'n'roll into an appealingly shocking fin de siècle package. Despite the admirable quirkiness of 'WOW' and twangy blues of 'Four Rusted Horses', The High End Of Low is too often content to alternate between competent garage rock and ill-advised attempts at stadium anthems. It's far from awful, but not for the first time, you can't help but feel that Manson could do so much better.