Album review: KATRINA – Hearts, Loves & Babys

KATRINA & THE WAVES – Hearts, Loves & Babys

Independent [Release date 28.08.20]

Now a solo artist, Katrina, ex of The Waves, will always be known for her monster, worldwide hit, ‘Walking On Sunshine’. It can be an albatross as much as it can be a permanent passport to fame. That said, ‘Going Down To Liverpool’ (made famous by The Bangles) was a useful, hip pocket back up, and winning Eurovision in 1997 with ‘Love Shine A Light’ may have been the success that’s never mentioned, but it put the band back into the public eye.

Yes, it’s useful to be reminded of these things, but to be honest, you can learn all of the above by quickly scanning Wiki or Allmusic. Even that most recent “hit” was more than 20 years ago.

So, 2020 – they thought it was all over, but it isn’t. What now? To kick off with, no Kimberly Rew, the ex Soft Boys guitarist who wrote almost all the band’s memorable songs. Katrina (Leskanich) has written the bulk of the material here, and has clearly absorbed much of Rew’s pop sensibilities and cleary sharpened her songwriting tunesmithery skills over the years. And in common with all great musical artists, she’s picked carefully and well in her choice of covers.

Not so much a cover, but a co-write (with Nefertiti Jones), the hooky ballad, ‘Who We Are’ wanders satisfyingly into urban country territory. It’s the sound of Leskanich throwing off the weight of her band’s three-hit-wonder past, revealing a nuanced, emotive vocal style, tightly tailored and stretched further on a light as air cover of the jazz pop standard, ‘I Can’t Give You Anything But Love’. (Baby).

The first single from the album, released last month is ‘Drive’, very much a return to the totemic sound of early …Waves, catchy, pulse quickening, full of relentless pop optimism. The slower paced ‘Holiday” is struck from the same mould, but freighted with half hidden meanings, giving the song an altogether darker hue.

A couple of cowrites with new guitarist, Darren Loveday (a much sought after studio and film musician), ‘I Want To Love Again’ and ‘Every Step’ lead further down the path toward the risk-adjusted sophistication of contemporary country. They come a little more slowly to the boil, simmering sweetly underneath the sharp songwriting and newfound purpose. Signposts to the future, perhaps. ****

Review by Brian McGowan

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