Every so often someone associated with a band reads my blog, figures out the kind of stuff I like and sends me some music in the hope that I’ll write about it. In the far off days when I wrote about music full time for a living it happened all the time, now only rarely, but this is how I came into possession of Sunshine Walkers - The Best of Kimberley Rew and Lee Cave-Berry which I was playing last week as I neared the end of a big, month-long editing job that has kept me from posting much recently.
Susannah Hoff’s bewitching eyes had nothing do with it when I became hooked by The Bangles singing ‘Going Down To Liverpool’. I first heard that song on a cassette given away by a music mag and thought it effortlessly catchy, wafting in on a summer breeze that blew The Mamas And The Papas and maybe even The Turtles into an updraft of sixties revivalism by way of chiming guitars and a kind of naïve innocence that enhanced their palpable Anglophobia. How on earth could four foxy girls from America’s West Cost even know what a UB40 was?
At first I was unaware that it was written by Kimberley Rew for his group Katrina & The Waves. Stupidly, I assumed The Bangles had written it themselves and it wasn’t until I delved further that I became aware that Rew is a songwriter and guitarist who belongs in that same tradition of musicians that I wrote about in January, in a post titled ‘Recurring Dream’ after the Crowded House song that I began by confessing “I’ve always been a sucker for songs that feature jangling guitars.” I guess that gave the game away.
Now comes this Sunshine Walkers set of 21 songs selected from Rew’s deep catalogue that eschews his better known material like ‘Walking On Sunshine’, ‘Love Shine A Light’ and ‘… Liverpool’ in favour of slightly whimsical choices best reflected in the opener, ‘The Dog Song’ that grooves along like a Chevy on Route 66, driven by Chuck. Next up is ‘It Makes Me Happy’, one of those songs that relies on the kind of staccato chords favoured by Tom Petty, all resolving into an exuberant chorus, while ‘Bloody Old England’ is a merry singalong celebrating the worst of our island. Similarly tongue-in-cheek is Lee’s ‘Backing Singer Blues’ a rockabilly lament on the trials of those who all too often stand at the back and sing ‘shooby-doo-wop’ while the spotlight is focused elsewhere. ‘The End Of Our Rainbow’, set to a cod-ska beat, sounds like Wings and in its cheerfulness harks back to that song on the White Album that John so detested.
‘English Road’, which rattles along like something Rockpile or any band featuring Nick Lowe might have recorded, summarises Kim’s feelings about his homeland without any of the unpleasant patriotism that undermines too much of today’s politics. “Don’t ever let them carve it up and sell the pieces to the States”, a line written in 2002, seems all the more pertinent today.
And so it goes on with many more beautifully crafted, understated songs that put me in mind of Badfinger, or The Pretenders, or Teenage Fan Club or Squeeze or – come to think of it – heaps more post-punk, new wave power poppers that I still enjoy. Great summer listening, especially as a the third Test against the Windies takes place tomorrow. Appropriate too – Robyn Hitchcock once said, “Kimberley could sustain out of a cricket bat.”