Album Review: Huey Lewis & The News - 'Weather'
The 80s pop favourites retain their charm on their first new record in nearly 2 decades, providing a double hit of fun and nostalgia.
Huey Lewis & The News are one of those bands that when you hear the name it may not ring a bell. But if you’ve seen Back to the Future, you’ll definitely have heard their music. The band enjoyed their peak in success in the 80s and 90s, but Weather sees their first release of new, original music in two decades, and is what they claim may be their last album. So, after 19 years, why have they now decided to give us their swansong?
When the band announced their upcoming release of new music, I’m sure many people feared what was to come, with a huge risk of the band leaving their musical reputation on a sour note after such a long, successful career. Yet, it is clear to see that the band has remained faithful to their traditional rock style infused with elements of jazz and funk.
The band was forced to stop touring in 2018 as Lewis suffers from an inner ear disorder which has significantly worsened his hearing, meaning, in his own words: ‘I can see the forest. I just have a little trouble with the trees’ (Interview with NPR). Therefore, the seven songs of Weather were recorded before Lewis’ illness worsened.
'When the band announced their upcoming release of new music, I’m sure many people feared what was to come, with a huge risk of the band leaving their musical reputation on a sour note after such a long, successful career'.
The album’s opener While We’re Young imitates the style of 80s pop, with the incessant use of synth, multiple guitars, groovy bass and feel good lyrics making it definitely one of the highlights of the album. Remind Me Why I Love You Again is another synthy 80s-esque bop with a stonking bassline, trumpet chorus and sassy message, reminding us why we love Huey Lewis and The News again. These songs are so typical of the band’s earlier style – to sum up in a phrase, it’s very much 80s nostalgia.
I especially liked his subtle use of effect on the vocals towards the end of Remind Me Why I Love You Again, making it sound like a telephone call. Though perhaps not as aggressive as the most famous song from the band’s career, The Power of Love, there are many parallels which can be drawn between the two; the instrumentation and punchy trumpet stabs keep to the band’s older style, however the vocals have notably mellowed out in comparison to Huey’s earlier, more shouty performances. Despite his debilitating hearing, Huey’s vocals remain as husky and on point as ever. Hurry Back Baby is another example of the high energy rock anthems that the band became known for.
Lewis goes even further into his blast from the past with his cover of the 50s 12-bar blues bop Pretty Girls Everywhere. The jazzy piano licks and male choir chiming in after every line takes us back decades to the likes of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. The band noticeably slow the tempo of the piece from its original performed by Eugene Church & The Fellows.
A main difference between this album and the band’s earlier work is that it isn’t as fast and is more laid back, evident in While We’re Young; though it’s not an overly slow song, when comparing it with stylistically similar hits from the 80s like Hip to be a Square, the slower tempo does stand out somewhat. The band relaxes it down for the extremely sentimental I Am There For You, with softly strummed guitar, a dreamy synth solo and lots of ‘oooo’s’. Not only does the band experiment with songs driven by the nostalgia of multiple decades, but also goes cross-generic with songs like One of The Boys giving us a strong country vibe. The soft slide guitar contributes to this, and he even changes his voice to sound as if he’s straight out of Tennessee.
'It’s a tad ironic that Lewis encourages listeners to enjoy life while they’re young [...], but that’s by no means to say that the band’s music is past its prime'.
Nostalgia is a lyrical theme that we see in multiple songs on the album, notably While We’re Young and One of The Boys. It’s a tad ironic that Lewis encourages listeners to enjoy life while they’re young when this is perhaps a song that would have been a more appropriate release in the band’s career in the 80s as a group of twenty-something-year-olds, but that’s by no means to say that the band’s music is past its prime. Having said that, Lewis does acknowledge the limits of age in lines like ‘we’re not as good as we once were… tell the kids we’ll be late / and we’ll need time to recuperate’. One of the Boys, with its country story-telling lyrics and harmonica solos, takes us into the past – that is, the band’s past – with lyrics such as ‘feeling the warmth of the old spotlight’ presumably referring to the band’s time in the limelight.
To sum up, Weatherstays very true to the band’s traditional style of the 80s and 90s, which gained them 19 spots on the Billboard Top 100. The band perform with the same pizazz of their earlier releases, but with the sad knowledge in mind that the band, as we know it, has come to an end. They have continued performing together since their mainstream success so undoubtedly, they would have continued making more jams till the day they die – a sentiment epitomised by the line in One of the Boys: ‘though I ain’t getting any younger I’m a long way from done’. So, if you’re in the mood for reminiscing about luminous leg warmers and Back to The Future, give the album a listen. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be sad to see them go.