One of the biggest issues I have when discussing progressive topics of the day, is that through the spectrum of history, we’re often proven to not be quite as progressive as we initially believe to be. That’s a long-winded way of saying, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’ Sure, we could be looking back at Normil Hawaiians third LP, Return Of The Ranters, recorded in 1985 but never formally released, and talk about how aesthetically and sonically it feels right at home in 2015. But history has me asking, why does its bleak, industrious outlook on life also resonate in the modern age?
With many radical groups popping up through the UK in the mid-80s, the members of Normil Hawaiians channeled the anger stemming from the authoritarianism displayed at the Battle of the Beanfield and other attacks on the working class across Yorkshire to produce an album of incredible urgency, yet without the confrontation found in their earlier works. The result is a beautiful array of diverse sounds and textures, all woven into a complimentary post-punk pattern. Rarely, do you hear a band combine so many different styles and sounds—like arhythmic drumming over violin squalls—without ever losing continuity, but this version of the Hawaiians, comprised of Guy Smith, Simon Marchant, Alun ‘Wilf’ Williams, Noel Blanden and Jimmy Miller, were able to do so and perfectly project an aura of the wavering time and place they lived. In their words, “triangulated from political, social and geographical aspects.”
After three decades, Return of the Ranters has finally received its due release this past Friday, October 23. The task of releasing this lost classic has been granted to Upset The Rhythm (ironically appropriate label in this case), who plans on also reissuing the band’s 1982 and 1984 LPs More Wealth Than Money and What’s Going On?, which will be accompanied by abundant liner notes, bonus tracks, rehearsal takes, rarities and singles.
You can stream “The Search For Um Gris” below, while I lament the reality that in 30 years we’re just as likely to be listening to songs about police brutality against working class citizens today.
“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay”