After several hit albums in the U.K., Level 42 finally found American success with the 1986 album World Machine and its hit single, "Something About You." When 1987's follow-up release Running in the Family also scored on this side of the Atlantic, it seemed Level 42 was here to stay.
But 1988's Staring at the Sun was an artistic catastrophe and a commercial failure, and Level 42 would never again reach the artistic and commercial peak of its two U.S.
Guaranteed was a considerably better album than Staring at the Sun -- not that the band could do much worse -- but it went virtually unnoticed in America.
Apart from a 1989 greatest-hits album, the band had not released a new album in three years.
Guaranteed boasts a number of catchy, if unremarkable, pop tunes; the title track (a Top 20 hit in the U.K.) is pleasant enough, and the almost-country number "My Father's Shoes" is unlike anything else the band ever recorded.
Vocalist and bassist Mark King, who sounded nearly comatose on Staring at the Sun, is rejuvenated and energetic here, particularly on the upbeat "Overtime" and the funky "Her Big Day." Keyboardist Mike Lindup leads on one of the album's best tracks, the ballad "Lasso the Moon," and "With a Little Love" is a simple but engaging plea for (what else) love, peace, and happiness.
Unfortunately, many of the songs here are dull and forgettable.
The band itself is in top form, but even the best musicians can't do much with lifeless material.
A couple of tracks are downright awful; "The Ape" is as silly as the title, and the overblown "If You Were Mine" is the album's worst song, proving drummer Gary Husband isn't much of a songwriter.
It's nice that Level 42 was able to regain some of its credibility with this album; Staring at the Sun was so mind-bogglingly awful, anything the band had recorded afterward would have been an improvement.
But compared to the rest of the band's output, Guaranteed barely registers.
It isn't necessarily a bad album, but one listen makes it painfully obvious that Level 42 was on its last legs.
The band would release one more album (1995's very good Forever Now) before disbanding.