Huey Lewis still has that twinkle in his eye on the cover of his newest album, Weather. Despite being diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease in 2018-an inner ear infection that prevents artists from performing on key- the legendary pop balladeer retains a creative drive that longtime fans will surely appreciate.
Even in these dire circumstances, Lewis manages to preserve high spirits through multiple avenues of entertainment. Aside from Weather, the 69 year-old also plans to spearhead a jukebox musical titled The Heart of Rock n’ Roll, for which he’s written a new song. The show was first orchestrated back in 2018, but Lewis hopes to perform it on Broadway in the future.
His newest album ironically reflects a late summer day, regardless of the cover art’s cloudy and damp San Francisco backdrop. Lewis sits in the forefront with a wink and a charming smirk, completely ignoring the murky setting directly behind him. It’s almost as if this illness is a short term fling; much like the aforementioned weather.
All of these songs were recorded prior to the diagnosis, yet this is Lewis’ first album in almost two decades. The seven track quick hitter is infinitely more genre defying than most of his work from the 1980s. While some of their prior classics conserved the power pop aesthetic from that time period, it’s Weather where Lewis visits the sonic palette of 1950s and 60s rhythm & blues; sometimes even dipping into old western country and early surf rock.
Most instrumentals could hang in the background of an old-school swing bar, and people would probably not think anything of it. The most eventful addition to the production is probably the jazz-inspired horns on “While We’re Young,” which jab at you with the classiness of a Michael Buble project. Much of the time, Lewis plays around with bluesy guitar renditions, gingery bass-lines, and delicate drum taps.
Lewis sings a lot about finding his true love, participating in one night stands, and living wild and free. Part of me believes that most of this album was written over the course of 20 years. Some tracks do appear recent, like the incredibly dark “Her Love is Killin’ Me.” Despite representing a late-50s blues shindig, Lewis juxtaposes a catchy electric guitar with over-the-top lyrics reminiscent of rap’s modern emo trend (” Can’t relax, I’m uptight/I’m taking pain relievers every night/So tense, I can’t cope/And I’d be hanging if I had some rope”). I can’t help but think the disease has something to do with this.
Other songs appear regressive on the surface, especially “Remind Me Why I Love You Again,” which embodies the counterrevolutionary side of the 50s-“You don’t cook, and you won’t clean/You can’t operate a washing clean…We’re nothing in common, should we even be friends.” While I don’t think Lewis meant much by it, the lyrics definitely sound problematic initially. This seems like something that was made in the 1990s immediately following the synth-heavy malaise of the 80s.
The overall design of Weather is consistent in tone, but oftentimes redundant. There’s more than a few cuts highlighting overblown horns and rangy harmonicas within in the choruses. Even the themes at hand aren’t much to write home about.
I’m glad Lewis still finds pleasure in dating, but some of the girl talk on the backend section of the album turns a little weird. Case in point; he sings about finding gorgeous women throughout beach and park escapades on “Pretty Girls Everywhere.” Can’t tell if he’s playing the role of sugar daddy, or if there actually is a lot of 65 year-old women roaming the shorelines.
It’s sad how Lewis may never be able to make music again. It’s something no one with a soul wants to see. I’m happy that he’s found apparent peace in the great pleasures of life. But Weather is essentially an album filled with tracks that bode well during a campfire session with your friends; comfort music if you will. Nothing egregiously stands out here, unless you’re talking about Lewis’ infatuation with pretty women and California surf rock aesthetics. It’s not bad; just middling.