Bury us happy: the lost debut album from Normal Hawaiians, one of the great unsung UK art-rock bands, officially released for the first time some 35 years after it was recorded - and only an absolute bloody masterpiece. Cut in ’82, it never came out properly back then, after their label Illuminated was blacklisted by its distributor for unpaid debts (more wealth than money indeed). Most of us came to this South London outfit via Return Of The Ranters, their final album - also lost (careless lot, this), also salvaged a couple of years back by Upset The Rhythm. Here was a tight, texture-obsessed band that combined the terse and tense qualities of classic post-punk with a kraut-ish predilection for improvisation, hypnotic on-and-on rhythms and unorthodox song-structures, with intrepid use of strings, tape loops, echo boxes and home-spun electronics.
Hatched in the city, they would ultimately regroup in the isolation of rural Wales, where they lived together commune-style in a small cottage, gobbling mountains of shrooms and committing themselves fully to The Work. More Wealth Than Money, expanded here with an extra platter of contemporaneous demos and unreleased tracks, might be their first full-length, but it feels like their magnum opus: to call it a Pet Sounds of misanthropic UK post-punk might merit a slap, but in terms of musical breadth and soul-searching depth, we can do just that, and with a straight face: just listen to the the fearsome, fatalistic jangle of 'British Warm', the drizzle-pop perfection of ‘Yellow Rain’, the plaintive cinematic swell of 'Travelling West' and 'Left Alone With Her Pipe'. This is Big Music, with an expansive, windswept vision drawing on pastoral prog, haunting lapidary folk, dub, and a peculiarly British take on kosmische - with strong pre-echoes of the kind of shoegaze and post-rock that was still a decade away. Of its era, only Legendary Pink Dogs come close, maybe bits of Astronauts (at a push). Completely bowled over. Don’t know if this was the best record released in 1982, but it's almost certainly the best of 2017.