Cruisin' music has, like almost everything else, gotten a lot harder in the early '80s. Witness Huey Lewis and the News, whose "Do You Believe in Love" was a bona fide Top Ten hit not too long ago.

In that song (by Mutt Lange of AC/DC and Foreigner fame), Lewis and his pals chose to continue in the good-timing tradition of the Beachboys, but they also spent some time in the Midwest with Bob Seger and on the Jersey coast with Bruce Springsteen. The changes were evident in their harmonies, which took on a tougher edge.

The group's new single, "Hope You Love Me (Like You Say You Do)," may be harder to sell; the world does not need yet another medium-tempo pop ballad with R&B overtones. But at least the group isn't afraid to tackle one, or two (Phil Lynott's "Giving It All Up For Love") or three ("The Only One"). Most of "Picture This" is straight West Coast power-pop, not as jingly as on the News' debut album, but still distinctive and catchy. There is a rock-roots energy coursing through this News, with Chuck Berry chunk-a-chunk rhythms ("Working For a Livin") augmenting Lewis' Philly- style blue-eyed soul. On several cuts, the fabled Tower of Power horn section knocks things into overdrive.

What comes through is an incautious blend of experience and youthful exuberance: Lewis has been slogging through the bar-band mills for almost a dozen years (mostly with Clover, which used to back up Elvis Costello), while much of the young band has coalesced around a charismatic leader for the first time. It's a winning mix.


THE ALBUM: Picture This (Chrysalis CHR 1340).

THE CONCERT: Huey Lewis and the News, Saturday at the Merriweather Post Pavilion (opening for Loverboy).