Turn That Noise Down - Level 42, Running In The Family


So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1987 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Susan Omand remembers Level 42 and Running In The Family, released in March 1987...

I'm not proud, I was wrong
And the truth is hard to take...


When I looked at the list of 30th anniversary albums, and once I had recovered from feeling very very old, Running in the Family from Level 42 was one of my first picks as one to go back to. The album has so many amazing memories for me, with superb songs and Mark King as the king (sic) of the bass guitar, so I was excited to relive my youth by listening to it again for the first time since my teens and wallowing in the nostalgia of a life that could have been with some of the best 80s music played by one of the best bands of the time...

See that pile of broken pink glass on the floor? That’s the rose tinted spectacles that fell off and shattered into smithereens as I realised just how not brilliant this album actually is thirty years on. I’m sorry, brain, but it’s true. And it is hard for me to admit, even to myself, that, listening to the album again in the cold light of 2017, there is nothing to merit the levels of veneration (42 of them I suppose) in which I had held Running in the Family as a musically important album for many years.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad album, not at the stage of switching off the radio if a song from it came on, it’s just not the amazing listening experience I remember. In fact, if I’m being brutally objective rather than sentimental about it, the songs are all pretty bland and generic for the charts of the time. Doing a bit of research now, I see there were 5 singles that came off the album but, to be honest, I could have only named two of them – the title track of Running in the Family and Lessons in Love. The rest all kinda merge into the same “late 80’s pop” sound. I think I commented to nobody in particular while listening to the album that it sounded a lot like Wet Wet Wet but Marti Pellow had a much better voice than Mark King ever did. (Ouch). But you know what I mean, right? There were a pile of bands around at the time that, I now realise, all made the same kind of songs – ABC, Heaven 17 et al – commercial boppy chart pop and slushy ballads that had no real depth or meaning, nothing to make them stand out amongst the rest. Even the bass playing of Mark King couldn’t really differentiate a lot of the songs enough. He was still good at what he did, and his playing was definitely better than his singing, but he lacked the unique god-like gloss that my memories had painted him with. It was all “just OK.”

I do wonder if I ever found anything that brilliant about Running in the Family and Level 42 to begin with or if this is an album that was simply the incidental soundtrack to a time and a place in my life rather than being special in its own right. Singable and danceable at the time, definitely, but ultimately forgettable. Unlike the memories...



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