Kimberley Rew's songs are as expansive as the East Anglian countryside in July...
Rob Webb 2005
Kimberley Rew's ringing, choppy guitar-clang became his calling card in the United States in the '80s, influencing REM and other American indie acts. Closer to home, Rew's group, Katrina and the Waves, hit the top with their Eurovision Song Contest winner, "Love Shine A Light" in 1997. It's a rich but unlikely pedigree.
Essex Hideaway is Rew's fourth solo venture and the second on Bongo Beat Records. Backed by musicians such as keyboardist Don Airey and drummer Dave Mattocks, it's his most personal outing to date: an elevating celebration of life in all its diversities, as witnessed by Rew. "Be anything you want to be / Psychedelic, folk rock or James Last / Just make sure your records / Aren't buried in the past," he advises on "Tourists Of Insanity", a backward glance at his varied career. Prefaced by a humourous 'hymn' -"Bless This Album", complete with church organ - it's also a very English record, in much the same way as the Kinks' late'60s work.
Rural England is the landmark, hence the album's title. The songs cover some unlikely subjects within the rock pantheon. "Arterial Road" tells the story of A.A. Milne's House at Pooh Corner, which featured in Milne's children's stories and was later bought by the Rolling Stones' very own Tigger, Brian Jones, who died in the swimming pool there.Victorian novelist Jerome K. Jerome even gets a track named after him.
What would the popular author of Three Men In A Boat have made of being immortalised in guitar-heavy rock? He would perhaps have preferredRew's tangential music-hall influences, to the fore on "That Soft Boy" and "Short Smart Haircut". The former is an obvious reference to his earlier job, forging the trademark sound of the Cambridge-based Soft Boys in the post-punk era. On the latter, the Joanna tinkles along to Rew's schoolboy advice about having the right hairstyle to get along in life; there's even a kazoo break.
"Your Mother Was Born In That House" explains, in the words of his father, exactly what it says on the tin. The future Mrs. Rew took her first breath, we learn, "In a first-floor flat / in 1924". It's typical of her son's songwriting; like fellow songsmiths Ray Davies, Wreckless Eric and former bandmate Robyn Hitchcock, Rew has a wry and conversational eye for life's prosaic detail. Never parochial, though, these songs are as expansive as the East Anglian countryside in July. Press play, look to the horizon and fill your lungs with a hearty and reassuring air.