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Originally issued on tape under the title Ultrasadism and soon after retitled Total Sex, Whitehouse’s second LP laid their Libertine approach to art and music bare in six tracks of raw noise and throttled vocals (plus two that would later join from the Hoisting the Black Flag compilation) held under a chunk of text by infamous masochist the Marquis De Sade. Arriving in between Bird Death Experience (1980) and Erector (1981), it formed a vital vent of expression at the turn of the ‘70s into ‘80s, when by all accounts Britain was a bloody murky place, riddled with serial killers, admonished by Mary Whitehouse, and beginning to feel Thatcher’s iron grip.
Notorious and coveted by Whitehouse’s legion followers, Total Sex is symptomatic of their uncompromising approach to everything from imagery to sound. The earliest version had an image of a victim of the Yorkshire Ripper, and its wholesale version sent to Rough Trade contained a gruesome picture of a Guanajuato mummy from Mexico, while this edition is faced by a passage of 120 Days of Sodom. The music follows with raw, mechanically reclaimed synth sounds that emulate the forced evacuation of bodily fluids from charred flesh, set to lyrics about male domination and leather steel coitus. It’s really not hard to draw a line from this subversive, belligerent intent and mode of expression to the earliest Prurient releases which would appear 26 years later. In many ways the music and the themes which begat it are pure fucking evil, but also purely human, maybe even a reminder that shit has hardly changed since De Sade’s time in the 18th century, when repressive religious logic precluded rational thinking and suppressed aspects of human nature that have always lurked below the surface. Total Sex brought this idea to light in an unprecedented context back in 1980 that continues to shock and provoke today.