In late ‘85, Level 42 released their fifth studio album, ‘World Machine’, upon the world. The lead out single was the radio friendly, ‘Something About You’ (UK#6/US#7), which finally broke Level 42 in a major way Stateside. The track was indicative of the style and sound across the album’s nine tracks. Mark King was in fine vocal form, whilst Mike Lindup comes more to the fore with his falsetto vocal harmonies. The follow up single, the soulful, slow tempo ‘Leaving Me Now’ (UK#15/OZ#98), further revved up the appeal of ‘World Machine’, pushing it to #3 in Britain (US#18), where it stayed for 72 weeks, eventually notching up double platinum status. And it wasn’t just the public that fell hook, line, and sinker for the stylish new model Level 42. Mark Sinker wrote in the N.M.E. in November of ‘85 - Level 42’s sound is like a “Brit-trot-punk band with glossy panther sheen, rippling hammer blow psycho motion, and pellucid colourwax drawl”. I couldn’t have said it better myself, in fact I didn’t say it at all.
The Gould-less Level 42 re-emerged in September of ‘88 with the album ‘Staring At The Sun’ (UK#2/ OZ#86/US#128), complimented by the lead out single ‘Heaven In My Hands’ (UK#12). The rock infused soul of the track opened the album’s proceedings, but was a highlight among few from the ten tracks on offer. The follow up single, ‘Take A Look’ (UK#32) was singularly uninspiring, though the funk laced ‘Tracie’ (UK#25) pepped up proceedings nicely. I purchased both ‘Heaven In My Hands’ and ‘Tracie’ on vinyl 45 (the latter featuring photography by Linda McCartney on the cover art). Overall, ‘Staring At The Sun’ had a few too many blind spots to be considered in the same league as its predecessors.
Level 42 took some time out over 1990 and into ‘91, before recruiting new guitarist Alan Holdsworth, a renowned fusion guitarist, to the fold. The new quartet signed with RCA and committed to recording a new album over the summer of ‘91, not to be confused with the summer of ‘69, which is a Bryan Adams song and belongs in an entirely different post. ‘Guaranteed’ (UK#3) kept up the band’s streak of UK top 5 albums (now at 5), but the best single related stat it could manage was with the title track (UK#17). Flashes of the verve and vibrancy of earlier efforts surfaced in patches throughout the album, including the up-beat single ‘Overtime’ (UK#62), and the horn driven funkification of ‘Her Big Day’. The third single, ‘My Father’s Shoes’ (UK#55), didn’t have as much soul as other tracks, even venturing into a country-esque feel. Whilst the album recaptured splinters of soulfulness, it was an inconsistent offering overall.
Despite a return to creative form on ‘Forever Now’, Level 42 all but disappeared from view over the next ten years, save for some occasional tour dates, of which Mark King was the only constant member. In 2006, the band resurfaced, featuring Mark King, Mike Lindup, with contributions from the Gould brothers on the album ‘Retroglide’. There were one or two highlights harking back to the band’s glory days, but overall it lacked the funk-based edge of the band’s original sound, and offered more forgettable than memorable moments.
In 2010, Level 42 celebrated its 30th anniversary with a tour, and a four disc box set titled ‘Living It Up’, which featured a disc of newly recorded acoustic versions of Level 42 hits, by King and Lindup.