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Normil Hawaiians: Return of the Ranters

Track List

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Album Notes

Normil Hawaiians were a little-known group that emerged from the late-'70s U.K. post-punk explosion, debuting in 1980 with a catchy single called "The Beat Goes On," which attracted attention from influential DJ John Peel and became a minor hit on the U.K. independent singles chart. However, by the time they got around to recording their debut full-length (1982 double LP More Wealth Than Money), they had changed lineups several times and moved far beyond their earlier punk-influenced sound, embracing a more improvisatory, experimental one. The label that released their two albums, Illuminated Records, had trouble getting its music distributed in the U.K., leading to most copies of the records only being made available in continental Europe, where the band's theatrical performances were well-received. Return of the Ranters, recorded in the winter of 1985-1986, was to be their third album, but for various reasons it was shelved, remaining in the vaults for three decades until Upset the Rhythm released it in late 2015 (although the group briefly gave the album a digital release in early 2013). The album's ten tracks contain atmospheric synthesizers, airy acoustic guitars, and sawing violins; at their most direct, such as the industrial-tinged bonus track "The Fog," there are stilted, pulsating drum machine beats, and at their most abstract, such as the ten-minute "Mouldwarp's Journey," they drift formlessly, punctuated by moaning and eerie synthesizer whirrs. While Normil Hawaiians' music explored the outer limits, their lyrics were explicitly political, bluntly addressing issues such as unemployment, poverty, police brutality toward protesters, and politicians' indifference to the needs and problems of the people. The poetic "Slums Still Stand" combines Brendan Perry-like backing wails with spoken vocals pleading politicians to pay attention to what's happening to the citizens, openly addressing Margaret Thatcher as a "stupid bitch." "The Battle of Stonehenge" opens with a stark, dirge-like a cappella lyric about government oppression, blooming into a lovely violin-led arrangement, leading into harsher guitars backed with television news samples. Return of the Ranters is a curious, sometimes startling album that remains daring and revolutionary decades after it was recorded. ~ Paul Simpson



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