Wednesday, January 12, 2011


1986 was a tremendous year for Christian Music. One of those albums which have withstood the test of time is Undercover’s album Branded. This quartet from Orange County was one of the earliest purveyors of the new wave/punk sound from a Christian point of view. Their earlier material was more surf punk with a light new wave sheen. However this release was a change into a darker, deeper direction.

Branded showcases tightly refined melodies with punchy rhythms and crunchy guitar. It also features the vocal debut of Sim Wilson. His staunch baritone adds a very different vibe to Undercover, almost a Goth type sound to these ears. Well in 1986 this was a very different atmosphere for Undercover, an almost stark contrast to what had come out before.

A dark broody album awaited us then and with this 25th anniversary re-issue put out by Intense Millennium you can enjoy this masterpiece as well. I know I’m the ‘metal guy’ but Undercover has always had a special place in my heart. I was fortunate enough to see them three times back in the day and each time they rocked.

The albums following Branded went in a more hard rock direction, like The Cult, which are fabulous if you can find them. However Branded still had some of those quirky new wave moments, Ojo’s bass keyboard being the most prominent. Having been recorded at Pakaderm Studio’s the quality of the sound has stood the test of time and this remastering has not only brought more definition to the music, but allowed it to breath in maturity. Ojo and the rest of the band oversaw the remastering themselves in order to get the sound they wanted.

They’ve included some nice bonus tracks, a few live renditions and a demo of the albums most enduring track I’m Just a Man.

This isn’t a new wave or Punk album but an album of transition. Most of the slogan songs are gone having been replaced with lyrical concepts that at times are deep, dark and depressing. Yet that is part of the life we walk and Undercover took the brave step to bring a more mature lyrical stance into their music. Personally I’m glad because it is due to this move that has allowed this album to age gracefully.

How can you forget a song like I’m Just a Man, Where Can I Go, Cry Myself to Sleep, Come Away or the heart wrenching Pilate. These songs are still just as haunting as they were in 1986. Ojo and company wrote an edgy and honest work of art. Gym’s hard edged guitar adds that ‘metallic’ bite that always caught my ears. The drumming of Gary Olson is also top notch.

Perhaps you missed this album back in the day or you’re just heard of Undercover for the first time. Branded is a great album of highly memorable whimsy that will stick with you without the clichés of typical Christian music of the period. This is a highly recommended album that will enjoy a prominent place in my listening rotation once again.

9 axes

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