Blue Collar Records
Most of us aging Righteous Rocker types initially remember the band Undercover as being this cheesy New Wave band with ska leanings that were constantly mislabeled as “Christian Punk” in the early 1980s. And rightly so; their first couple of albums were just that. Then, around 1984, the original singer left, and the group brought in a different vocalist that had, let’s just say, a different style. Add to this a lyrical change to reflect the personal struggles the band was starting to go through at the time, and what resulted was an album that was strikingly different than the poppy, upbeat bumper sticker sloganeering that everyone was used to from the band. Instead, we were given an album that signaled the birth pangs of maturity.
Gads, that sounded so very pretentious. Eh, I’ll leave it. Take it as you will.
The album opens with “I’m Just A Man”, which retains an element of the New Wave rhythm, but is more a driving rock tune with good use of keyboards and guitars. The music is more alternative than punk, with a goodly amount of driving rock songs (“Where Can I Go?”, “Pilate”, “Darkest Hour” and “If I Had A Dream”), some darker, mid-paced pieces (“The Fight For Love”, “Build A Castle”, “Come Away With Me”) one legitimate Clash-inspired punk tune (“Tears In Your Eyes”), and a !BALLAD ALERT! (“Cry Myself To Sleep”). I’m not really counting the two brief instrumentals flanking “Darkest Hour”.
Overall, Branded has a raw feel to it, some due to the production, but mostly to the music and introspective lyrics contained. This was vocalist Sim Wilson’s first recording with Undercover, and his raw passion ties things together nicely. I can imagine the reaction from the fans when they first heard this when Branded was released; to say nothing of the original cover art, which features a photo of a tattoo, maybe the cause of various eyebrows being raised alone. Eh, I wasn’t there at the time. What I can say is, listening to Branded now, the album seems to still hold up. Recommended for fans of classic alternative rock.