THE BRANDOS – Honor Among Thieves – (Relativity) – 1987


I had no knowledge about this band till now. They weren't on my radar and that's strange because the 80s and the 90s were the decades I spent a lot of time searching out new non-mainstream sounds, especially from the US.

I have high hopes for this. The band are American, look vaguely cowpunk-ish, are on a indie label, and have a cool name.

Cause for concern is that it is 1987, a little after the cowpunk genre had peaked, it was recorded in New Jersey (not that there is anything wrong with that but most cowpunk came from California) and they look quite slick.

The concern is mainly ill founded.

The Brandos are a roots rock band who have their roots in power pop and indie rock from the west coast.

Allmusic: " The gritty, back-to-basics rock & roll of New York's the Brandos has roots in the Seattle scene, but not the one that become famous. Brandos frontman Dave Kincaid once led the Allies, an early-'80s power pop band that won an MTV contest with the video for "Emma Peel." However, the new wave-influenced acts emanating from the Emerald City back then received little attention outside of the Pacific Northwest so Kincaid split from the Allies and moved to New York in 1985. While skimming through the Village Voice, Kincaid saw an ad from the group Soul Attack looking for another lead singer. Kincaid joined the band and changed their name to the Brandos. Featuring Kincaid on vocals and guitar, Ed Rupprecht (guitar), Ernie Mendillo (bass, vocals), and Larry Mason (drums), the Brandos released their first album, Honor Among Thieves, on Relativity Records in 1987. The Brandos reaped positive coverage in Rolling Stone and Time; moreover, the video for "Gettysburg" was played often on MTV, a channel that rarely supported artists on indie labels. In 1988, Kincaid was chosen as Best Male Vocalist (Independent Label) at the New York Music Awards. The Brandos also left Relativity that year to sign with Geffen Records. But the Geffen deal was tangled in legal hassles, and the group ended up at RCA Records in 1989. RCA dropped the Brandos after they finished their second LP, Trial by Fire, in 1990. The Brandos' third album, Gunfire at Midnight, was distributed by Germany's SPV Records in 1992. Rupprecht and Mason departed from the band in 1993, replaced by ex-Del Lords members Scott Kempner (guitar) and Frank Funaro (drums). In 1996, Frank Giordano (vocals, guitar) was added to the lineup; the group's fourth LP, Pass the Hat, also appeared that year. Kincaid completed a solo album in 1997 but returned to the Brandos for another LP and gigs in Europe with Bryan Adams, Van Morrison, and Deep Purple"

The band have a following in Europe and have recorded 13 albums. Lead singer and main songwriter Dave Kincaid has also recorded a couple of solo albums.

This debut album would have tickled me back in 1987. Listening to it now I still find it enjoyable though what came after it in roots and Americana has tarnished it a little perhaps.

A lot of the roots rock (and some of the cowpunk) from the 80s sounds quite slick today. At the time though it was anything but. The mainstream 80s, as I have said somewhere else was filled with some of the most dire music ever recorded. The dominant 80s sound ruined everything and was all pervasive. Even rockers and rootsy folkers from the 60s and 70s put out 80s albums that sounded over produced and slick. The only relief was from the US alternative indie scene … roots rockers, hardcore punk, paisley underground, leftover power poppers and any number of other fringe dwellers.

But, even then, the production techniques were against them.  And, music is a job and most (well not the hardcore punkers) wanted sales and things couldn't get to dirty.

The ragged edges of the 70s roots rockers were filled out.

There is nothing wrong with this. I loved it then because it was different to the mainstream 80s, had links to American musical traditions and sounded positively confrontational when placed against the 80s mainstream.

But, we would have to wait till the 90s for roots, Americana, rock and roll to start sounding rightfully ragged again.

It is sad because ten years later and all these roots rockers would have the perfect mainstream rock sound and would have made a lot of cash.

Think The Del Lords, The Beat Farmers, The Blasters, True Believers,  The Long Ryders, Jason and the Scorchers  … and I don't mind thinking these bands as these are all bands I loved in the 80s, and still do.

The Brandos may have jumped on a rootsy bandwagon given their pedigree.

"The Allies had risen out of the ashes of Bighorn, a popular Seattle group that made a big-time, major-label record in 1976 and toured behind arena rockers like REO Speedwagon. After Bighorn tanked in 1979, drummer Adamek switched to guitar and fronted the Allies with newcomer Kincaid. The Allies gigged with abandon around Seattle for quite a spell, but Adamek quit the group after they failed to cash in on the buzz surrounding their self-released debut, and Kincaid called it a day in 1984. He switched coasts to try his luck in a bigger pond – New York City … The Brandos, in short order, David Kincaid had his second brush with greatness by, cynics might claim, hopping on yet another bandwagon. During the mid-80's, numerous American rockers were embracing their ostensible roots: country, folk, blues, and rock 'n' roll played the way God intended – loud and unencumbered. Perhaps these bands were reacting to the fey, synthesized road rock had taken since new wave supplanted disco in the hearts of the fickle public. Regardless, this "American Music" movement spawned acts as illustrious as the Blasters, Los Lobos, Long Ryders, Del Fuegos, and BoDeans, leading eventually to the acoustic-based "Americana" movement that persists to this day … Anyway, David Kincaid's new band, the Brandos (formed with former Allies drummer Larry Mason and members of local New York rockers Soul Attack) unblinkingly embraced this burgeoning genre. The Brandos readily affected the trappings common to bands of this ilk – working-class couture, heroic swagger, and a fetishistic obsession with American history".

Their roots rock don't come from a punk, new wave or outsiders background though I think come from Kincaid and a real interest in American musical history (and history generally). Kincaid is sharp and has throaty John Fogerty-like vocals with conviction.

The band combines roots rock, with some hard rock & folk rock. The songs were given big rock productions with a tendency to anthemic sounds with (over) emotion always on display. The sound is very 90's so it amazing to hear this kind of sound in 1987.

The Brandos never spent much time in the sweaty trenches with their genre mates. After this albums release they were on MTV rotation, touring the U.S. and Europe, opening for  The Georgia Satellites, INXS, The Cars and The Alarm and being reviewed favourably reviewed by out of touch, well behind the event, old fart magazines like Rolling Stone, Creem and Time (in its music review section). They even won Best Album (Independent Label) for this album at the New York Music Awards (Kincaid won Best Male Vocalist (Independent Label)).

I sound like I'm criticizing the band. I'm not. Well, not entirely. The Brandos have the skills, and there is some very angry writing in there (and befits the American indie underground of the 80s) as well as a couple of well chosen covers (every album should have a couple of covers as far as I'm, concerned).

It may be slick roots rock but is sure would have sounded good in the 80s.

Produced and arranged by Dave Kincaid.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Gettysburg – (Creston Funk / Dave Kincaid) – catchy, full sound, sobering subject matter.
  • A Matter of Survival – (Dave Kincaid) – another catchy song (with a pulsating beat that reminds me a little of "Dont Fear the Reaper" by the Blue Oyster Cult)  though there are some old school guitar wankerisms.
  • Nothing to Fear – (Creston Funk / Dave Kincaid) – …
  • Honor Among Thieves – (Dave Kincaid) – deliberately slow paced and angry but obscure. I assume it is about 80s greed, banks and the financial crisis at the time.
  • Strychnine – (Gerald Roslie) – The Sonics magnificent song from 1966. A good version …pity about the production on the 80s drums.

      Side Two

  • Hard Luck Runner – (Dave Kincaid) – …
  • In My Dreams – (Creston Funk / Dave Kincaid) – a slow grind.
  • Walking on the Water – (John Fogerty) – "Walk on the Water" was a song on. Creedence Clearwater Revival's first album from 1968.  The track is a remake of "Walking on the Water", a recording released by the band as a single, in 1966, while they were still known as The Golliwogs. He has the right voice for this and sounds a little like Fogerty … and there is nothing wrong with that
  • Come Home – (Dave Kincaid) – the folk ballad which is given the big treatment … and again a little like Creedence.

And …

Patchy, but with enough good songs in a genre of music I like … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action




1987 #108







Honor Among Thieves



Hard Luck Runner

Walking on the Water

Come Home

mp3 attached





In German


  • Kincaid's solo albums are songs of irish volunteers in the US civil war.   Allmusic: "Singer David Kincaid was best known as the frontman of the roots-rock band the Brandos when he took a break from contemporary life and music to join the 116th, a Civil War re-enactment troop. His fascination with history led him to begin researching the obscure traditional songs sung by Irish Union soldiers during the war between the states".

About Franko

Hi, I'm just a person with a love of music, a lot of records and some spare time. My opinions are comments not reviews and are mine so don't be offended if I have slighted your favourite artist. I have listened to a lot of music and I don't pretend to be impartial. You can contact me on though I would rather you left a comment. I also sell music at Cheers
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