Whitehouse - Cruise / CD review by Chris Chantler
After twenty one years, it might be tempting to ask exactly what more Whitehouse have to offer. While their place as inventors and pioneers of power electronics is consistently reinforced, and as acclaimed and utterly brutal as 1998’s ‘Mummy and Daddy’ was, few would have believed William Bennett when he insisted “this will just go well beyond what would normally be tolerated” back in issue 85.
From the frantic opening title track, it is clear that one notable intensification is in the arrangement and delivery of vocals; they’re more upfront, unnerving and oppressive here than ever. ‘Princess Disease’ is as brutal and compelling as Whitehouse have ever been, while ‘Movement 2000’ is an unevolving barrage of harsh static noise reminding me of the band’s Live Action in London last year, where the focus boldly seemed to be on confrontation through tedium. ‘Public’ revisits the themes of ‘Private’ from ‘Mummy and Daddy’: a succession of interviews with rape victims, bereaved parents and drug addicted prostitutes. It’s tempting to say this has less effect second time around, until you stop yourself in disgust and shamefully realize you’ve just possibly made their point. Most intriguing is ‘Dance the Desperate Breath’; over the ambient noise of a shopping centre, William Bennett whispers about abducting and underfeeding a girl until she dies, malnourished and skeletal. A tour-de-force of scarily unhinged prose, it is harrowing and hilarious in equal measure. After the infamous ‘A Cunt Like You’, inexplicably identical to the version on ‘Mummy and Daddy’ (I’ve got my theories…), ‘Cruise’ ends, leaving the listener annoyed, affected, euphoric, depressed, reflective and perplexed.
It would be too easy to dub ‘Cruise’ Whitehouse’s most ‘arty’ or ‘intelligent’ album, but something inscrutable and fascinating has happened to the Whitehouse dynamic. ‘Cruise’ sends question marks flying everywhere, dragging notions of ‘sincerity’ and ‘irony’ around for bloody sport, exposing ambiguities and hypocrisies without spoon-feeding the listener any comfortable agenda. One look at the cover confirms that. It refuses to be what you want it to be; neither the relentless sadistic attack of yore nor the artistic intellectual absolution so many commentators were looking for to make sense of the band. It’s an impossible and frustrating album, but after dozens of repeated spins and much deep thought it’s unavoidably an incredible piece of work.
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