Katrina & The Waves: Walking On Sunshine (1983)

I think Katrina & The Waves get a bad rap these days,  presumably due to the omnipresent oversaturation of the "Walking On Sunshine" single (seemingly used by every other movie soundtrack to signal an 80s motif) and the brief popularity of their self-titled 1985 U.S. debut (which was an inferior, slicked-up rehash of their earlier indie recordings).  But their initial 3-LP run is absolutely wonderful, perfect shiny happy guitar pop that's raw and infectious and as totally fresh today as it was 25 years ago.

The band was sort of a mash-up of two different bands -- UK singer/guitarist Kimberley Rew, who had just left the Soft Boys (where he was largely overshadowed by the genius of Robyn Hitchcock, a talented Harrison to Hitchcock's McCartney) and a British cover band featuring American expatriate Katrina Leskanich.  Their first album, Shock Horror!, was released while the band was still going by The Waves and had Rew, who wrote all the songs, handling most of the vocals; it's decidedly lo-fi but terrific.  But once it was clear that Katrina had some serious pipes, Rew wrote a new batch of songs better suited to her pop style, and re-recorded some of the Shock songs, now giving Katrina title billing in the band's name on the second record.

And it's a simply fantastic album, non-stop jangly power-pop, with Rew's chiming guitars, simply effervescent lyrics and buoyant tunes paired with Katrina's warm and enthusiastic vocals.  The title track, overplay aside, is quite simply one of the best pop songs of the new wave era (and much better here in its original formulation, free of the overdubbed horns from the later hit).  And a few other tracks are in the same league, most notably "Going Down To Liverpool" (a new recording of the Rew-helmed track from the debut, and one which would later be well-covered by the Bangles); the joyously infectious "Brown-Eyed Son"; and the delightful mid-tempo ditty "Que Te Quiero."  My personal fave is the reverb-drenched "Spiderman," a dense, building tremolo groove in the vein of the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now," with a booming delivery from Leskanich.

The album was paired with its equally fantastic follow-up (Katrina & The Waves 2) on a collection called The Original Recordings 1983-1984, which is absolutely essential if you can find it.  Some might prefer the U.S. debut, which adds a lot of polish, but I think the originals are definitely the keepers.  (BTW, Rew has continued to release brilliantly understated solo albums from time to time, still stoking that pure pop fire.)

Here's "Going Down To Liverpool":
Here's that "Sunshine" video (with the shiny remix, not the original recording):
...and a great live version of "Brown-Eyed Son":