Just about everyone has heard songs by Kimberly Rew, but chances are good that most of those people have never heard his name, or, if they have, probably think he's a woman. In most instances this would be a great place to soapbox on the ignorance of the masses, but one can hardly expect the masses -- or anyone else for that matter -- to have followed Rew's schizophrenic career path. This guy's résumé has more spikes than Johnny Thunders' first-aid kit.
Rew gained initial notoriety as the guitarist for the Soft Boys, an eclectic and twisted English pop quartet featuring a quirky frontman named Robyn Hitchcock. When the Soft Boys called it a day in 1981, Hitchcock was the most prepared of the group to fly solo, as he had established himself as a high-profile oddball. His subsequent career surely needs no introduction.
Rew seemed equally ready to test the solo waters. He released a couple of singles at the start of the '80s, but neither took the world by storm. While Hitchcock was chewing up the solo scenery, Rew was biding his time with a soulful little pop band called the Waves, led by Katrina Leskanich. Shortly thereafter Rew contributed the shimmering "Going Down to Liverpool" to the Bangles, and in 1985 his song "Walking on Sunshine" came pouring out of every radio in the world and made Katrina a star for a brief moment. For whatever reason, the magic didn't last, even though the band scored four subsequent hits. When the Waves crashed in the early '90s, Rew moved into session work.
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Last year Hitchcock and Rew teamed up again for the first time in two decades on Hitchcock's Jewels For Sophia, and Rew has finally produced Tunnel Into Summer, an entire album's worth of the kind of crystalline perfect pop songs he's regularly turned out for others. As usual Rew brings a wealth of world-pop and Brit-folk ingredients to the mix with simple but instantly addictive hooks and melodies. There are more than a few understandable connections to the Soft Boys' sonic history ("Little Ray of Sunshine," the title track), but a number of elements are at work here, from Big Star ("Simple Pleasures") to Dream Syndicate ("If There's an Answer") to XTC ("Tart With a Heart"). Various luminaries dot the sonic landscape, with appearances by Hitchcock, Squeeze's Glenn Tilbrook, ex-Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks, and singer-songwriter Julian Dawson. Tunnel Into Summer is not exactly a perfect album -- Rew's voice is too thin, lacking the impact of the singers who have covered his work to great effect -- but any fan of power pop or anyone familiar with Rew's previous work is going to be thrilled with the long-overdue results.