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Sunshine Walkers (KL Recording)

The first Kimberley Rew song I was aware of as written by him was when The Bangles recorded Going Down To Liverpool on their rather (and still) fabulous debut, All Over The Place. A song about the constricted lives of the unemployed forgotten in Thatcher’s Britain (“Where you going with that UB40 in your hand/Through this green and pleasant land”) that feels joyful and crushed at the same time, and comes over like a golden moment of guitar pop, it’s a peach of a song.

Some of us had come to recognise him as the guitar foil to the brilliant madman Robyn Hitchcock in The Soft Boys: a cult band for sure, but purveyors of excellence and oddities in equal measure in a form that was part post-punk, part psychedelic, part science class and part alternative pop. But it’s likely only nerds remembered.

The first, and probably only Kimberley Rew song that most people would know – and then only if they checked the small print on the label – is a little thing called Walking On Sunshine, by Katrina And The Waves (for whom Rew had written Going Down To Liverpool, recorded pre-Katrina, with him on lead vocals). You know the song? Oh, you do?

Even if like me you’re well over hearing Walking On Sunshine, which has to be one of the most played tracks of the past 40 years on radio/TV/sporting events/parties, it’s hard not to see the utter genius of its pop craft. The man could write a tune.

Neither of those songs is on this collection of Rew’s post Waves/Soft Boys work. But wait. That’s not really a problem as Rew and bassplaying/singing partner Lee-Cave Berry have a way of satisfying whatever your needs because his songwriting – and his guitar playing - seems geared to just about any style you might have need for.

Want some louche British cabaret channelled through The Kinks? Here, have Bloody Old England and the pint of heavy is on us – then follow it with a North London chaser of The End Of Our Rainbow.

Maybe some estuary R&B is your cup of Dr Feelgood? My Baby Does Her Hairdo Long is cheap pill-jittery, wide-eyed simplicity, with a plate of chips and eel, and Some Days You Eat The Bear has a bottom half that will kick your bum and a top half that will make you dance. And you can get to those roots with the rockabilly jive of Flat Cat and spring back via the Dave Edmunds-channelling, pub piano retro hoot of The Dog Song (“dogs don’t get religion, dogs don’t go to hell”) and the shooby-dooby-doo of Backing Singer Blues.

How about some snapshots from that beach holiday with the house band’s groovy blue-eyed-funk bass and a melody that oozes tanning oil and family favourites in the same vein? Meet Purple Pyjamas. Or let the funkiness go a bit wah-wah trippy, a tiny bit blaxploitation slinky in Flower Superpower, before you find yourself in a country-soul-cardigan crooner night curated by Nick Lowe playing Happy Anniversary or The Safest Place.

Did I mention this is like some pop rock super store sale? (Did the Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds references not give it away?) Stomping All Over The World is the lost dBs single, all jangle and stomp, head-shaking chorus and propulsive bass. Hey, War Pig! is the lost Soft Boys album track: 1966 and 1978 coupled, tinshop drums and slightly bent guitars paired, anger and vibrancy co-existing. And It Makes Me Happy? Well if Rew and Cave from Melbourne I’d have plonked them down in Melbourne on the same bill as The Sports and watched the pub explode with delight during Rew’s guitar solo.

If you haven’t figured out this is a set of good-time favourites that would kill it at any wedding, bar mitzvah, reunion night or covid-lockdown party-for-two, you haven’t been paying attention. Order in tonight, clear some space in the living room.

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