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Music Review: The Waves – Shock Horror

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Shock Horror is the first album by the group that would become Katrina and The Waves — who'd go on to produce some excellent, if somewhat under-appreciated, music.

Songwriter, lead guitarist, and sometime vocalist Kimberley Rew is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the band's hit “Waking On Sunshine” by re-releasing three of its albums plus his own long-out-of-print solo release. Each album has been remastered and issued with previously unreleased bonus tracks.

Rew formed The Waves during 1975 with sidekick drummer Alex Cooper. In 1977 they disbanded when Rew left to join Robyn Hitchcock and The Soft Boys. That in turn left Cooper free to join Mama’s Cookin’ which featured Katrina Leskanich and bassist Vince De La Cruz. After the demise of The Soft Boys, Cooper invited Rew to join Mama’s Cookin.’ He agreed but convinced everyone to change the name to that of his former group, The Waves.

Shock Horror catches Rew and thus the group in a transition period. The sound is a cross between The Soft Boys and the smooth sophisticated rock which would soon follow. Also at this point, Rew and Leskanich shared lead vocal duties. This would change in the near future, however, as Rew would write material with Katrina in mind as the vocalist.

While the album was not commercially successful, its lead song, “Going Down To Liverpool,” was recorded by The Bangles, helping the girl group obtain a major label recording contract. The Waves' rendition is more somber but is interesting to compare it to the better known pop/rock version.

The gem of this album (and a true, unexpected surprise for me) is “Saturday Week” with Leskanich on lead vocals. I would call it jump/rock although the percussion foundation is right out of big-band, swing jazz. This lost up-tempo number is one of the best tracks they would produce. Other highlights include Rew’s signature jingly guitar on “Strolling On Air” and the frenetic “Brown Eyed Son.”

Shock Horror catches The Waves on the verge of finding their classic sound. While the albums which followed would be more consistent, there are still a few gems to be mined on this one.

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