I was watching John Cusack’s Hot Pursuit the other night, one of many wonderful 80s movies I missed on the original era. This satisfying cinematic experience ends with Cusack and girlfriend sailing into the setting Caribbean sun as the credits role. It was just about everything awesome 80s thing combined in one: girl, boat, exotic locale. Making it even more awesome was a end credits song that was just on the cusp of my memory: “Lessons In Love” by Level 42.
I don’t know what Level 42 was musically. I’d guess British new wave, but that’d just be a guess and some music aficionado would certainly tell me how wrong and stupid I am. I’m a little more confident, though to say that they were neither as new wavey nor as popular as A Flock of Seagulls. Though I do appreciate A Flock of Seagulls for what they are, I still think being less new wavey than them is a good thing. But being less popular than them is definitely not. And I can’t understand it, seeing that Level 42 had not only had the incredibly catchy and perfect end credits song “Lessons In Love”, but also the even better “Something About You”.
Why, then, were they not as popular and as fondly remembered as Flock or the many similar bands at the time? My theory is that they were too poetic. Look at the structure of “Lessons In Love”. They not only employ several deeper-than-average metaphors (“I’m just trying to reach your shore”), but they mirror ideas from one stanza in another (“All the dreams that we were building, we never fulfilled them” matches “All the homes that we were building, we never lived in them”). I just think that was too poetic for pop tastes. The fact that both songs are about the tragic side of love might also be a problem here. And the massive existential clown freakout in the middle of the “Something About You” probably didn’t help either.
Still, there is something wonderful about these two songs, if not about Level 42 in general. The opening hook of “Something About You”. The bittersweetness of both songs. The way the guitar player tosses out that lick and the keyboardist dances while playing one-handed and the lead singer pops the hand gun in “Lessons In Love”. After re-finding the “Lessons In Love” video, I watched it fifteen times in a row. Seriously. Fifteen times. There is some serious 80s musical goodness here. Now, if I was only sailing into the Caribbean sunset…