Level 42 – Level 42

Level 42 – Level 42 – 3.5/5
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Initially intrigued by the sublime bass work of Mark King, this is one jazz-funk band that - despite the high level of talent shown by its members - results in a listen that feels too ‘easy,’ or too simplistic. As though they have failed to truly push themselves to the limits of what they are capable of producing, and despite a number of strong tracks results in an album that somehow feels below what they are capable of.

The bass succeeds in being fairly prominent, if perhaps not quite prominent enough, as it is often his bass lines that supply most of the boisterous funk groove that is so integral to many of the tracks. No stranger to the ‘slap and pop’ technique, his presence is often the most technical feeling, and despite this never feels pointless, the melody being the focus. Vocals are featured on roughly half the tracks, and never become too dominant. With a smooth tone it really assists the flow of the slower tracks, and creates something emotional, even if not a dominant presence.

The keyboards are often used an atmospheric backing, though occasionally get to strut their stuff (e.g. Almost There), and they often succeed in adding depth to what could otherwise be quite a thin sound, but too often fail to add something memorable. Similar can be said for the guitars, taking notice of the distinctly clean sound, and how it allows them to easily sit in the final mix with an easily heard, yet at no point dominant manner, something which would perhaps be interesting to hear of in metal more often.

In fact, if anything is to be commended, it is how everything is worked together. By retaining a clean tone to the guitars and bass, everything can be layered on top of each other and retain a certain clarity, at no point does any instrument become difficult to discern, each performer contributing to the end result. It’s just the often fairly lengthy tracks (most well exceeding the 5 minute mark), where little in the way of change in style or tone occurs, that leads to an album that wears too thin too quickly, the funk groove not capable of sustaining interest for repeated listens. Nonetheless, an interesting listen, if perhaps on reflection not as impressive as I once hoped.

Highlights: 43, Why are you Leaving, Heathrow