The Undertones

The Sin of Pride

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The Sin of Pride was by far the most exploratory album the Undertones ever issued and, other than their debut, fares the best. Whereas Hypnotised had been another punk rave-up album and Positive Touch had been a psychedelic outing, The Sin of Pride was a deep look into the soul music of the '60s done with a post-punk sensibility. Obviously, ABC and Paul Weller's Style Council were reference points on this trail, but O'Neill's own way of hearing created a kind of psychedelic soul that was very different in approach and execution than either of those chart-topping acts. Covers such as Leon Ware's "Got to Have You Back," which opens the LP, and Smokey Robinson's "Save Me," which closes it, are bookends for a moving blend of funky, driving, deeply textured psychedelic soul music that makes pearls of tracks such as "Untouchable," with its driving basslines and horn section, the roiling melodic line of "Bye Bye Baby Blue," and the sweet Motown groove of "Conscious." Vocalist Feargal Sharkey's range limitations make him more expressive and offer a kind of innocence that is refreshing and enduring. With songs like the title track and "Love Parade" crossing Marvin Gaye's rave-up territory with Arthur Lee and Love's Baroque pop sensibilities, The Sin of Pride is one of the great unsung albums from the early '80s and sounds much fresher and more adventurous today than many of its more well-known contemporaries' albums (check "Chain of Love" to see if you recognize the harmonica line -- it was stolen wholesale for "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club). This album may have been the Undertones' swan song, but it reveals that they were headed into exciting waters musically and called it quits at a creative peak rather than in some lonesome, tired, aesthetically bankrupt alleyway of potential spent and gone.

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