Mention The Soft Boys and most folk will associate them with Robyn Hitchcock, the idiosyncratic singer/songwriter who has gone on to carve a successful solo career. However, it was The Soft’s guitarist, Kimberley Rew, who initially became, well, not famous, but certainly commercially successful. Joining Katrina & The Waves, Rew penned their top ten chart hit Walking On Sunshine while another of his songs, Going Down To Liverpool also hit the charts when covered by The Bangles. In addition, a bizarre series of events led to Katrina & The Waves winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1997 with a Rew composition, Shine A Light, a song originally written for The Samaritans!
On a solo note, Rew was out of the traps with a serious contender in The Bible Of Bop, an album recorded variously with his Soft Boys chums and The DBs and which remains somewhat stellar in its power pop power. Consumed by the Waves however, it was not until 2000 that Rew returned to recording under his own name, releasing several low key albums. By now he was accompanied by his wife Lee Cave-Berry (a musician with her own tale to tell including being the proposed bassist for a Bill Haley UK tour -cancelled when he died with Cave-Berry suggesting that the thought of having a female bass player did for him).
Anyhow, Sunshine Walkers, aside from its cheesy title, is a selection of songs that the pair have released over the past 20 years, alongside three from Bible Of Bop. It’s a generous helping, 21 songs spanning 70 minutes and while it leaps around genres somewhat, it’s a grand listen, serving to remind one that Rew is not only a killer guitarist but one of those somewhat unique songwriters who can channel humour into songs while remaining well away from being a comedy act. Think of Neil Innes and indeed, Robyn Hitchcock.
We were unaware of Rew’s output, aside from Bible Of Bop, and it’s great to hear Hey War Pig, Stomping All Over The World and especially, My Baby Does Her Hairdo Long again. The latter is a stone cold classic. But venturing into the album we were blown away by the likes of Restless Ocean, a Neil Young like guitar epic and then Rew’s psychedelic guitar showpiece, Flower Superpower which has a Temptations’ sly funky groove wired into it. A cover of The Troggs’ I Want You is snotty as fuck with garage band chords thrashed out along with snarling solos.
The album kicks off with a great example of Rew’s off kilter approach as The Dog Song finds him pondering on whether pets have a philosophical or religious bent as the band hammer out a raunchy Stones cum Berry riff. Bloody Old England reminds one of Ray Davies or Steve Marriott’s cockney odes to English tropes while The End Of Our Rainbow is a McCartney like piano fuelled end of the pier romp. There are nuggets like this throughout the album. It makes Me Happy kicks off sounding like Wreckless Eric as Cave-Berry takes the vocals and Rew turns in a tortured solo and Backing Singer Blues has a loose limbed Rockpile swing to it. There’s no space here to mention all songs but it’s nice to note that the pair have the opportunity to celebrate their union on the sweet laid back vibes of Happy Anniversary and to state that the closing song, Simple Pleasures, is one of the finest jangled power pop songs we’ve heard in a long time.
Nicely packaged and with liner notes by Bucketfull Of Brains’ Nigel Cross, Sunshine Walkers is uplifting and, after months of lockdown, a real breath of fresh air.