While Finger on the Trigger — the 2001 debut by New York City's TNA — remains among the most blatantly Eighties pop-metal records I've heard this millenium, the band's second album, Branded, manages to come into the Nineties with a thicker sound that doesn't rely on as many hair-metal clichés. But that dated sonic attitude doesn't detract from this record's hands-in-the-air, let-yourself-go, feel-goodability.
Remnants of TNA's Eighties heyday — the band initially formed in 1985 and wound up opening gigs for the likes of King's X — remain on Branded. "Do You Remember," for example, wraps itself around extremely melodic verses and a soaring chorus without sacrificing the band's don't-fuck-with-us edge, and "Walk Before You Crawl" opens with the same Mötley Crüe-meets-Poison guitar lick that permeated Finger on the Trigger's "Take You Home." But singer Mike McManamon's deep-rooted voice is a far cry from the high-pitched screamers of yesteryear, lending TNA's material a bit more-modern sound. The mid-tempo ballad "Nine Lives of Innocence" gives off a progressive-rock air with McManamon's impassioned delivery and the song's acoustic and electric interplay, and "Lies, Guns and Violence" takes a stab at biting social commentary. Meanwhile, the New York City homage "Scream" and the closing track "Kill Your Idols" flirt with pure metal more than any of the other tracks on Branded.
Back in 1989, TNA (which the band claims stands for "Total Noise Addiction" — not, well, you know) should've been touring with the era's biggest and best. Today, in its third incarnation, TNA is making music that sounds more passionate and lethal than recent output by many of its former contemporaries. Keep kickin' ass, boys.