Nobody expected Level 42 to come back. Oh sure, this British R&B-funk-jazz band’s still gigging out in Europe, pushing their live albums to diehard fans overseas. But as for the Level 42 of “World Machine,” “Running In The Family,” and in 2006, “Retroglide,” forget about it.
Sometime early last month, buzz grew about a new EP called Sirens. The band’s founders/vocalists, boss bassist Mark King and keyboardist Mike Lindup then began tweeting about it for sure. Fans everywhere, in the U.S. too, subsequently make a beeline to the online shops to download or order personally autographed records, and tweet back their overwhelmed, overwhelmingly thankful reviews.
“Funking fantastic.” “Total saturation.” “Sirens blaring out across town!” “Just heard Sirens for the first time and immediately went back to High School in my head! Immense!” “The boy grows out of the 80s, but the funk stays in the man.” “Slapped the air bass all around the office….good job I’m all alone today!” “When I first listened to the track #Sirens it sounded like Love Games and World Machine, mashed up and replayed…” “Why I love Sirens ? It’s real music; created by real musicians. Back to basics. Magic.” “All 4 kids dancing and singing along to Build Myself A Rocket — need to work a bit on both but ultimately a very proud dad!” “Loving Sirens! Amazing album! Air bass guitar not a good idea while driving though.” “It’s really striking a cord with the kids this tune! My 3y/o is singing along on the top of his little voice. Love it!” “My 3 year old boy is sat in his car seat, eyes closed nodding his head to the beat of Build myself a rocket.” “Sirens — Just about on a par with the feeling I got on Jeff Lorber Fusion’s Wizard Island first listen.”
Dewmann left this YouChew review November 5: “Those who like good 80s music or in general just dancy kinds of music should definitely give this album a listen sometime. Every track is enjoyable in some way or another and John Morales mixed these masterfully. I also think it’s a great way to introduce people to this band that have never heard them before because from here it’s really easy to get into their older stuff if they’re looking for more songs that sound like these; their old catalog is jam-packed with many great songs and playing and very effervescent of the sound that was popular through the age of new wave. I know I’m definitely going to try to get this (as well as their other albums) on hard CD if I can.”
The power of the people, that elusive buzz, has crossed Level 42 over from the 1980s generation to the now, as parents shared the new six-track EP with their children. They were instantly taken back to their high school or college days, grooving to that impossible bass-funk and the heavenly harmonizing, dreaming far-off, romantic, sci-fi-worthy dreams. Their children instantly took to the new music as new music. It’s the ideal blend of old and young, nostalgia and current.
Mixed and produced by John Morales, sparked by different, larger back-up personnel (including drummer Pete Ray Biggin, guitarist/vocalist Nathan King, and saxophonist Sean Freeman), Level 42 just broke loose with another hit on their hands.
Dude, it’s 1985 all over again!
The title track shows off a killer band (recorded or live). These guys know what to do with their instruments, from the bass-slapping get-down and the finessed synth, to the wrestling sax, a shot of tight, deep-bottom rap, and that trademark harmonizing up in the rafters. Lindup really improved his game since the 1980s. He’s no longer squeaking in his numbers as a side note. He’s shotgun alongside King riding that monster bass.
“Too Much Time” contains a lot more street funk than the usual posh British band would allow back in the day of pop hooks and romantic looks. King’s down and dirty, dropping sh*t, in time to the wild retro-funk and Lindup’s shaking his synth to the nth degree.
As much as Sirens is a surefire chart-topper along the lines of “World Machine” and “Hot Water,” “Mind On You” could be Level 42’s next “Something About You,” their mid-1980s #1 with a bullet. It starts off slow and sensual, peaking on an infectious melody and built on Mark King’s bass penetration.
The last track, “Where’s Yo’ Head At?,” a jam fave, is textbook Level 42, with Mark King firmly at the helm, Mr. Pinking his vibe all over the premises on a Tower of Power horn trip. Dance and chops put together.
Here’s hoping the band rides the wave back to the States for a world tour.
Can you hear the Sirens? Everyone else has. Get on board.
Review originally appeared on Examiner Nov. 2013. Alas, Examiner no longer exists in our universe, having disbanded last year.