Letter to The Wire, September 2007

Many thanks for David Keenan’s commendably demystifying article on Whitehouse (The Wire 282). Keenan correctly identifies the two main developments in Whitehouse’s work since Cruise: a new focus on the lyrics, and an attention to African culture and society. More could have been said, however, on both these threads. The lyrical focus arises from William Bennett’s interest in neuro-linguistic programming, a set of techniques that seek to influence behaviour through patterns of language. The synthesis of everyday conversational tics and unsettling philosophical inquiry in Bennett’s recent lyrics is a clear outgrowth of this interest.

References to Africa include the 2003 song “Cut Hands Has The Solution”, which alludes to a deranged Sierra Leone commando squad; 2006’s “Nzambi Ia Lufua” (“god of death” in the Kikongo language); and the pan-African coloured lettering on the cover of 2006’s Asceticists. With these glancing allusions, Whitehouse summon up a world of unimaginable cruelty; and with their skilful manipulation and interrogation of language, they refract it onto ourselves.

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