Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I have a vague memory of when I discovered the word 'poo' was naughty. I am told that I pretty much used it every time I opened my mouth. If my mum asked me what I wanted for dinner, the word 'poo' would no doubt be in my reply. I was about two years old.

The best way of describing Whitehouse is as a group of similarly minded men who never really got over that initial excitement of discovering a naughty word. Over the years they expanded their vocabulary with an array of other words and offensive concepts both 'musical' and otherwise all of which were geared to do nothing other than challenge/upset.

Maybe William Bennett and Peter Best's mum's didn't react when he said 'poo' and that's why they kept saying it, maybe that's why they became the kind of people whose sole purpose is to ride that naughty schoolboy bus of 'shock' until the wheels fall off or the world ends. Later in their career they would graduate to songs with the word 'cunt' in the title a series of visual head-nods to the world of pre-pubescent sex and incest.

I don't have a problem with any of that, what does perplex me is how they manage to make it all so singularly dull. Take the song 'My Cock's on Fire', how is that not going to be the greatest song you have ever heard? How can it not be the opener to every compilation cassette you make? For me Whitehouse are a wasted opportunity, an unfulfilled idea. I want to like them so much it hurts. The world needs Whitehouse and others like them but beyond an awesome t-shirt what do they actually deliver on a musical plane? Not a lot... Imagine a bad Spectrum album where Pete Kember has developed Tourettes syndrome and you are scarily close.

'Cream of The Second Coming' serves as a compilation of the highlights of their pre 1990 career, it's alright but it never really gets going. Musically they are unpleasant and as difficult to listen to as you might expect but that's not the real issue I have with them. Where are the peaks, sonic explosions, walls of layered throbbing sound? Does 'Power Electronics' really just mean sub-Status Quo sonic exploration? Much of the album has a very amateur Bontempi through a Boss Distortion pedal feel, it's uninteresting and doesn't even work in a so bad it's good way. At it's worst and in part due to lyrical content it actually comes across as a novelty record the likes of which could quite easily sit next to an Ivor Biggun or Macc Ladd's album.

All of this said, does it stop me from not only owning a copy and displaying it proudly at the front of one of my piles? It does not. The sleeve is a masterpiece. For the uninitiated it screams 'explore me', for those who know it's a very neat and stylistic summary of the bands first ten years, even if, in the cold light of day they were a bit uninspired.

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