Most artists who show up on Behind the Music have a tragic tale to tell, whether it's drug addiction, the death of a loved one, or a bitter falling out between longtime bandmates. Not Huey Lewis & the News
-- the one time they faced tragedy is when they thought Ray Parker, Jr.
ripped off "I Want a New Drug" for his theme to Ghostbusters. Apart from that, everything's been pretty great, because they're a bar band (if they'd been from England, you'd call 'em pub rock) that made good and they've always been grateful for their success. When the hits stopped coming sometime during the first Bush administration, they graciously stepped back from the spotlight; during the '90s, they only released one new album, and that was just a covers record. Ten years later, they finally reemerged with Plan B
, a record of original material (barring a cover of one of Nick Lowe
's best songs, "When I Write the Book") that helped showcase their new, expanded lineup with a full horn section. Some bands might verge on bloat with a new horn section, but not the News
-- it just emphasizes that Plan B
is a return to their roots, a lean, soul-inflected, driving rock & roll record. And that "Plan B
" in the title certainly alludes to the bandmembers' decision to give up any hopes of chart success in favor of just making a record of music they like, and the gambit pays back better than anyone could have hoped. This is an unpretentious, utterly likeable record, filled with clever, catchy songs that would sound great in a packed club on a Friday night. And these are good songs, songs that could hold their own with "Workin' for a Livin'," "Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do," and "Some of My Lies Are True" -- they're nearly as memorable and melodic, and easily as fun. It's true that part of the pleasure of Huey Lewis & the News
' first three albums was how the records straddled the line between pub rock classicism and post-new wave modernity, and that sound is nowhere to be found here. But the music itself is first-rate, whether it's on the opening track, "We're Not Here for a Long Time (We're Here for a Good Time)" -- which trumps "Couple Days Off" with its casual honesty -- or on the middle-age love duet "I'm Not in Love Yet," which finds Huey
trading lines in an absolutely alluring fashion. There's nothing fancy here; as a matter of fact, it's disarming, refreshingly unpretentious, and all the better for it. Even better, this is the first Huey Lewis & the News
record that sounds like a Huey Lewis & the News
record in ten years, and it's their best since at least Fore!
, probably Sports
. There's not a chance in hell that it'll burn up the charts like those records, but it's certainly one of their best albums.