October 1982…The Rolling Stones owed Atlantic Records one more album on the deal they inked way back in ‘71. The sooner they knocked it out, the sooner they could cash in on a new deal with another label that had deeper pockets. To facilitate the process, for the first time Mick and Keith demoed a complete, all-new batch of songs ahead of time, instead of slowly building up the compositions during the sessions themselves.
The following month, the Stones picked up the tools of their trade again in what they’ve considered their home base studio since 1977 — EMI’s Pathe-Marconi, Paris. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards would be self-producing under the moniker “the Glimmer Twins” as they had been for several years, aided by engineer Chris Kimsey. Kimsey would now be officially elevated to the status of co-producer. A new face in the studio was Chuck Leavell, a virtuoso keyboard player from Georgia and former member of the Allman Brothers Band. Leavell became a fixture at every Stones session and concert tour from that point until this very day. Unfortunately, Leavell’s timing in joining the Stones family was not the best. The autumn French weather wasn’t the only thing that was frigid. The negative atmosphere of the Emotional Rescue sessions intensified — the band was stressed-out, ill-tempered, and uncommunicative. Bill was rumored to be quitting the band.
Still, the show must go on. Millions of dollars hung in the balance. Mick was at the height of his club-hopping and trend-chasing, latching on to whatever was newest and shiniest in the music scene, to the disgust of traditionalist Keith. Keith’s disinterest in the developing style of the new album led to minimal input on his part, resulting in it being totally dominated by Jagger’s vision.
The basic tracks were wrapped up in Paris by December 16 — a new speed record for the normally lackadaisical group (likely because they couldn’t stand being in the same room together for long). Then habit re-established itself as things slowed down and the Stones studio-hopped for the next several months…overdubs at Compass Point in the Bahamas over the spring of ‘83, then final touches and mixing at the Hit Factory in New York through August. As usual, a clutch of guest musicians was invited to contribute, most notably the Jamaican rhythm section of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, and a veritable parade of percussionists (including Dunbar, Martin Ditcham, and Moustapha Ciesse & Brahms Coundoul of the Afro-jazz group Xalam).
Undercover was released in November 1983, with a titillating sleeve featuring a vintage nude model, her “bikini area” strategically covered with what appear to be stickers. (On first edition pressings they really were stickers, and you can bet those things are worth a fortune now, peeled or unpeeled.)
The first song face-plants right out of the gate. “Undercover (of the Night)” tells a semi-coherent tale of political violence in South America. The vocals are more of a narration, and have no flow. The aggressive beat is over-populated with a cacophony of percussive noisemakers, including Sly Dunbar on Simmons electric drum pads, which ought to be a capital offense on a Stones song. Charlie gamely does what he can on his traditional drum kit, but he’s swamped. Kimsey opens up the Pandora’s box of synthesized, antiseptic ’80s production, with none of the grit that signifies a good Stones song. It’s a problem that will dog the whole album.
The second track, a Chuck Berry-inspired rocker called “She Was Hot,” is for the most part very enjoyable…but there’s a whiff of over-calculation. The individual elements are solid — the lyrics, the vocals, the guitars, and especially the drums (Charlie’s on fire) all do their jobs at the service of a light-hearted ‘50s-style throwback. But as a whole it feels like it was assembled from instructions. A color-by-numbers “My First Rock & Roll Song” kit. Up next is “Tie You Up (The Pain of Love),” which may be the one Undercover song I can enjoy without reservation. A saucy blast of thumping, sexed-up funk, the kinky BDSM theme may not be everyone’s cup of lube, but it’s the one moment on the album where the band breaks out and sounds loose. Keith’s turn on lead vocals follows with “Wanna Hold You.” Coming after “She Was Hot” and “Tie You Up,” this concludes the album’s brief segment of listenability. Although it’s a treat — who doesn’t love Keef? — it’s merely a spirited retread of Tattoo You’s raunch-rock masterpiece “Little T&A.”
“Feel On Baby” is Undercover’s reggae song. Emotional Rescue’s “Send it to Me” sounds like The Best of Bob Marley compared to this big heap of nothing that drags on for over five soul-killing minutes. The clattering, echoey percussion introduced on “Undercover (of the Night)” and slathered over everything is really starting to wear out its welcome.
Punctuated by a cheesy horn section that would make Lionel Richie retch, “Too Much Blood” is the last gasp of the Stones’ side job of creating at least one dance track per album for the discos, a tradition that began with Black and Blue’s “Hot Stuff.” This one goes a little thematically darker than the usual club anthem, but the genuine menace once exuded by the Stones is reduced to a carnival haunted house, Alice Cooper-style. The interminable spoken word segments from Mick, rambling in his put-on Cockney accent about Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the true-crime cannibalism case of Issei Sagawa, are bad icing on a worse cake. (“Too Much Blood” did indeed get its extended 12-inch dance mix, which doubled the song’s already agonizing six-minute running time. I can only imagine the dance club’s patrons using it as an opportunity to go do blow in the restroom.)
“Pretty Beat Up” lacks substance, melody, or a point. This bit of filler that barely qualifies as a song once had the very appropriate working title of “Dog Shit.” A guest spot by saxman David Sanborn can’t polish this turd. By the time the second half staggers into “Too Tough,” I have usually given up trying to listen to Undercover. “Too Tough” (To Listen To?) is another number that’s just too generic for words. Unmemorable, off-the-shelf guitar riffs make this sound like a knockoff bar band imitation of the Stones rather than the real deal. “All the Way Down” tries to conjure a little of the old “Shattered” spirit with its rapid-fire vocals and tale of decadence, but it can’t rise above its phoned-in music.
The best thing about “It Must Be Hell” is the knowledge that it is the last song, and puts a welcome bullet in the head of the whole project. Another unsuccessful attempt at social commentary like the title song, “It Must Be Hell” lays down yet another plastic prefab backing track as Mick decries the suffering and plight of…someone, somewhere. It’s never really clear. Maybe it’s about Soviet communism? I dunno.
Undercover has no there there. It seems to be occupying a theoretical space where a Stones album should be, but it disappears when you poke past its shiny surface. A used-up Chris Kimsey told the difficult band he was opting out of whatever their next project was.
From the outset, Keith did not care for the material put together for Undercover. Especially nowadays, people tend to elevate the super-cool outlaw rebel Keith Richards at the expense of campy, prancing frontman Mick Jagger. But when the Undercover situation was reversed, and the opportunity came to dominate the creative process of making a Rolling Stones album…Keith proved quite capable of producing total crap as well.
How did this happen? It all started a couple of months before the release of Undercover. On August 25, 1983, the Rolling Stones announced they had signed a $28 million deal with CBS Records. All well and good. But piggybacked onto deal was an entirely separate fat payday for Mick — for his new solo career. This was kept secret from the rest of the band for as long as possible.
In fact, it was widely believed that CBS Records president Walter Yetnikoff wanted Mick Jagger as a solo artist more than he wanted the Rolling Stones. Mick’s status as a celebrity and media personality seemed unaffected by the artistic ups and downs of the band in the last few years. By the early ’80s, in some people’s eyes the Rolling Stones were merely Mick Jagger’s backing band. (A shot of the Sun Devils Stadium marquee reading “Tonight: Mick Jagger & The Rolling Stones” on their ‘81 tour was discreetly edited out of the concert film.) It certainly appeared that Yetnikoff believed people would buy Jagger’s stuff in the same numbers as they bought the Stones. (He would be proven wrong, of course. Jagger’s whole persona, down to his voice itself, can be jarring when removed from the familiar context of the Stones.) And kingmaker Yetnikoff would get the credit for shepherding Mick away from sharing the spotlight with four other guys and into a lucrative new era. There was every expectation that Mick could be the next Michael Jackson, the Stones being the Jackson Five in this analogy.
When Yetnikoff actually pushed for Mick to do his own album before the next Rolling Stones album (and pushed hard — Walter was a pushy guy), the cat came screeching out of the bag. Mick announced in April 1984 there would be no work with the Stones that year as he concentrated on his first solo album. Keith was predictably livid, but could do nothing but wait. After a series of fractious band meetings, it was agreed to start recording the new Stones album in January 1985.
When the momentous occasion finally arrived, Mick — just as Keith predicted — arrived at Pathe-Marconi with an empty tank. No songs, no ideas for songs, no lyrics, no scraps. He had used it all up on his own album, She’s the Boss, due out in a few weeks. He would soon be jetting off for press, promotion, videos, and all the distractions selling an album requires. (She’s the Boss did not fly off the shelves, but made it to #13 on the U.S. charts. Not a failure, but Yetnikoff’s predictions of having the next Michael Jackson in his stable were not panning out.)
Recording began in earnest in April, and it frequently proceeded without Mick. And even more frequently without a fed-up Bill, who was rumored to be quitting the band. And often without the band’s anchor/compass, Charlie, who was depressed, drinking heavily and, unknown to everyone until after this period was over, using heroin. So Keith stepped up to the plate and began cranking out songs, assisted by Woody, who was just out of rehab (not for the last time.) Keith desperately wanted to tour with this album, so the songs he created were designed to be concert-friendly — big riffs, high energy. He felt all the band’s problems could be worked out if they just hit the damn road. It was not to be. Maybe it was for the best — the songs formulated to be concert warhorses were uniformly second-rate.
Despite not being present much of the time, one of Mick’s positive contributions was bringing in Steve Lillywhite, the producer behind XTC, Simple Minds, and U2’s early work, in the hopes that a fresh set of ears would help matters. Poor Lillywhite must have wondered what he’d gotten himself into. In the end, everyone came to the conclusion that Lillywhite was a total pro, and credited him with doing everything he could to salvage the material. Many years later, Lillywhite laughingly confessed to the knowledge he (co-) produced the “worst-ever Rolling Stones album.” He and the band remained friends, but never worked together again.
When the Stones said good-bye to the Pathe-Marconi Studios in June of 1985, it would be for the last time. The facility, which had been growing increasingly decrepit, was razed in the 1990s. Parisians living in the apartments that now occupy the old studio’s footprint have no idea they’re doing their dishes over a ghostly chunk of the Rolling Stones’ recording legacy.
Through July and August, the basic tracks were completed at RPM Studios in the band’s second home, New York City. Overdubbing began in September and continued into the next month. Mick finally completed the blustering, belligerent lyrics, none of which were anything above ordinary, and some were downright wretched. As we’ve seen, Stones sessions have an open-door policy for famous friends, or musicians who can add an interesting touch. Trying desperately to give the floundering album a lift were the likes of Jimmy Page, Jimmy Cliff, Ivan Neville, soul legends Bobby Womack and Don Covay, and many others (the number of backing vocalists could fill a page on its own.)
The final mix of what was now titled Dirty Work was completed on December 5, 1985 after a month of fiddling and tweaking at Right Track Studios. Exactly one week later, “sixth Stone” Ian Stewart died of a massive heart attack at only 47. “Stu” was wonderful barrelhouse pianist, and had been a founding member of the band in 1962, before management removed him from the line-up for not fitting in “aesthetically” with the rest of the group. He stayed in the band’s inner circle as chief road manager and part-time keyboardist, only playing on songs he liked. (He refused to touch any of the Dirty Work songs.) Losing Stu was the capper to an incredibly shitty year for the Rolling Stones.
Dirty Work came out on March 24, 1986. The cover says it all — wearing neon-bright ’80s colors, the band is sprawled lifelessly around a sofa. Four of them are glaring, glassy-eyed and bored, at the camera. Charlie averts his eyes, either ashamed or mourning the band that was pretty much dead at this point.
“One Hit (to the Body)” is busy and flashy, and ends up sounding like bubblegum hard rock, more Bon Jovi than Rolling Stones. Like everything on Undercover and much more to come, the production is brittle, over-processed, and very, very ’80s. Still, it’s probably one of the strongest songs on the album. In an historic moment, the Stones are joined by Jimmy Page, who fires off two Zeppelinesque guitar solos. This alone makes the song worth a listen. The immediate follower, “Fight,” is more stripped down, and Charlie plays a little looser. The main riff echoes “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in places, but the song ultimately rings hollow.
“Harlem Shuffle” is the best song on Dirty Work, and it’s not an original. It’s a cover of a 1963 R&B number by Bob & Earl. The Stones wisely chose this track as the lead single off the album, being the only song from the sessions to flash the Stones magic. Bobby Womack’s voice is so prominent it’s practically a duet with Mick. The seemingly effortless, slinky cool of “Harlem Shuffle” is then dissipated by the tuneless trifle “Hold Back,” which lurches around trying to figure out what it’s about while Mick tackles the vocals with such histrionics it sounds as if he’s about to rupture himself.
Then the Stones finally nail reggae! After several less-than-convincing attempts dating back to Black and Blue, “Too Rude” gets it just right, but…it’s not really the Stones. It’s the duo of Keith and Woody. Playing both bass and drums, Woody reveals he could acquit himself well in a Kingston dance hall. It’s Keith on guitars and lead vocals, with reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff singing along. It’s also not an original, but an off-the-cuff re-working of “Winsome,” a recent hit by Jamaican artist Half-Pint. Lillywhite, a veteran of the Island Records staff in the 70s, gives it an authentic, dub-style mix.
“Winning Ugly” is the first of two originals eventually brought to the table by Mick late in the game, and not a product of the overworked Richards-Wood riff factory. It sounds much more like his solo material, with its digital synthesizers and female backing vocals. It’s no surprise Bill isn’t on bass, but not even Woody could be bothered, so the bassist is a studio musician named John Regan, who was on Mick and David Bowie’s cover of “Dancing in the Street,” a Live Aid charity single recorded around the same time. (Remember the God-awful video?) “Back to Zero” is Mick’s second contribution, warning listeners about the perils of nuclear war in the new guttural, hectoring singing voice he’s been trying out on these sessions. The guitarists are given a break (some of the minimal six-string work here is provided by Bobby Womack), and the sound is dominated the burbling keyboards of Philippe Saisse and Chuck Leavell, who would become the first non-Stone to receive a co-writing credit. The dubious Chaka Khan-style percussion comes off poorly.
“Dirty Work” and “Had it With You” are of a piece, channeling Keith’s frustration with Mick into C-grade rockers with formulaic riffs. (To keep it from being too formulaic, the bass guitar and piano were dropped from “Had it With You,” and Woody played sax. Didn’t help much.) They may well have come alive on stage as intended, but they’re pretty thin gruel here. The album closes with “Sleep Tonight,” and sets a new precedent with Keith’s second lead vocal on one album, backed by Womack and Covay. In fact, this very nice slow ballad is pretty much all Keith — lyrics, guitars, bass. That’s Woody providing some shaky drums instead of the ailing Charlie. The pianist is a mystery — most sources say it’s Keith himself, some say Leavell, and it’s even been suggested that it’s Keith’s new pal Tom Waits. It fits his style, and Waits was known to be hanging around the New York sessions, occasionally joining the throng of backing vocalists. The album fades out to a brief sample of Ian Stewart playing “Key to the Highway.”
In spite of everything, Keith still thought the band would take Dirty Work out on the road. His hopes were shattered when Mick sent everyone in the band a letter saying he would not be touring with the Stones in the foreseeable future. Mick was most likely correct that no one in the band was physically or mentally up to a tour. He was beginning work on his second solo album, and what’s more, he was assembling his own band and going on tour with them.
“…and so the Rolling Stones ended their remarkable career in the spring of 1986.”
That’s how the story could have ended. But no one pulled the trigger on an official break-up announcement. Charlie cleaned up his act by the end of the year. Bill was rumored to be quitting the band. Mick released his second solo album, Primitive Cool, in 1987 and unlike the relative success of She’s the Boss, it was a flop. He briefly toured Japan and Australia in 1988, performing mostly Stones material with Joe Satriani on guitar (how Keith fumed over that!), but decided against bringing his act to the U.S. or Europe. He realized the brass ring of solo superstardom had eluded him. Keith put out his own modest album in late 1988, Talk Is Cheap. He and his ad hoc band, the X-Pensive Winos, got more critical respect than Mick’s efforts, but similarly low sales (it struggled to #24).
Phone calls were made among the band, with the amiable Woody acting as mediator, throughout 1988. “Shall we…? Next year…?” As Keith told Mick in an ‘88 band meeting, “This thing is bigger than both of us.” He later compared the Jagger-Richards relationship to a marriage that stayed together for the love of the kids they’ve produced.
The Stones’ decade-long Paris/New York City phase was over. A new chapter opened in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Mick and Keith scheduled a tentative meeting for just the two of them at Blue Wave Studios in Barbados in early January of 1989 to see if they could manage not to kill each other. Keith told his wife he’d be back in either two weeks or forty-eight hours. To everyone’s relief, the pair found rapprochement and immediately began working on demos, the process of which spread over the next two months. Initially, it was just the two of them. As they found things clicking, Charlie was summoned. (He had an uncredited hand in many of these songs’ composition.) A couple of weeks later, Woody and Bill arrived.
No long breaks this time. Chris Kimsey came back to the co-producer’s chair on the condition that things be done quickly. As soon as the demo sessions on Barbados wrapped, the band island-hopped to Monsterrat and AIR Studios, which had state-of-the-art equipment and all the amenities of a tropical resort. Leavell took his spot at the keyboard, and Kimsey did not return alone. He brought a friend, arranger and — uh-oh — synthesizer specialist Matt Clifford. It was definitely still the ‘80s. But Clifford would soon prove his worth, contributing significantly to almost every track, and the bad vibes that dominated recording sessions since Emotional Rescue were banished. Recorded digitally for the first time, the basic tracks were finished in a little more than four weeks.
The band reunion was also a homecoming. For the overdubbing and mixing sessions in May and June, the Rolling Stones returned to Olympic Studios in London for the first time in almost twenty years. From late 1966 to 1970, Olympic was the band’s studio of choice, the recording site for Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and much of Sticky Fingers.
To some fans’ dismay, there is one tradition established by the Stones in the ‘80s that they’ve stubbornly clung to — hiring professional backing singers. Even Keith admitted having ringers in the vocal booth sped things up and took a little weight off the core band’s shoulders. For Steel Wheels, Mick brought in Bernard Fowler and Lisa Fischer, who had performed on his ‘88 solo tour. From his own solo project, Keith brought in Sarah Dash. The Stones would rarely record or perform without a supporting vocal trio in the future, usually anchored by Fowler, who, like Chuck Leavell, became a mainstay.
A brass section-for-hire called the Kick Horns was added to four tracks. And in mid-June, Mick, Keith, Woody, and the production team traveled to Morocco to record with the Master Musicians of Joujouka.
Steel Wheels was released to great fanfare and generous reviews in August 1989 — the Stones were back! — but time has not been particularly kind to the album. Its cold, ultra-slick sound became dated almost the moment the decade turned. The songs themselves are an overall stronger batch than those found on Undercover or Dirty Work. I guess I’d say Steel Wheels is the “best of the worst.”
“Sad Sad Sad” kicks things off by breaking tradition — firing the first salvo of an open-tuned guitar riff is Mick Jagger. The song itself is a loud, energetic, but slightly second-tier rock song, enlivened by the Kick Horns and Woody’s very busy bass. (52-year-old Bill was briefly in the doghouse with the rest of the band for getting engaged to a teenager during the sessions. He was banished to the neighboring island of Antigua for a while to clean up his mess by dealing with the media shitstorm that inevitably came down and threatened to derail recording. Woody, as usual, handled bass chores in his absence.) “Mixed Emotions” is the album’s theme song, very well-arranged and well-performed by the band firing on all cylinders, and highlighting their new vocal chorus. The lyrics are all about burying hatchets and forgetting past insults, but as the title indicates, there’s a little ambivalence there too.
“Terrifying” demonstrates there are still definitely factions within the band: the traditionalist Richards-Wood axis, and those who flitted in and out Jagger’s more experimental orbit. On these sessions, Mick’s partner in crime was Matt Clifford, who helped Mick arrange this dance-pop confection with tinkling synths that is more reminiscent of something like Dead or Alive than anything associated with the Stones’ normal inspirations. Kick Horns member Roddy Lorimer steals the show with a squiggly trumpet solo in the song’s final third. Luckily, the Wyman-Watts rhythm section is in strong evidence, keeping the track grounded in funk. As doubtful as I am when Jagger takes the Stones in this direction, I have to admit “Terrifying” keeps me listening.
“Hold on to Your Hat” is a throwaway, the kind of fast-tempo’d filler that clutters up latter-day Stones albums like empty beer cans, destined to never see the lights of a concert stage or make the cut for a compilation album. The blues number “Hearts for Sale” is of even less interest, hitting all the usual marks without catching fire. The acoustic “Blinded by Love” changes things up, a rustic blend of country and tex-mex, and featuring some interesting Jagger lyrics about romance through the ages. Clifford associate Phil Beer adds atmospheric touches on fiddle and mandolin.
The centerpiece of Steel Wheels is “Rock and a Hard Place.” The lyrics are non-specifically political, championing human rights around the world. The sound is massive — a monolithic chunk of dense hard rock churning away like a lava pit. The band sounds like they’re really sweating it out, building on a Leavell/Clifford keyboard wash, firing off mini-solos, conjuring a funky breakdown on the bridge, and Bill Wyman — despite frequent absences of late — shows he’s still a master bassist.
“Can’t Be Seen” marks the first time on the album we hear Keith on lead vocals, and it sounds like what it is, a Talk Is Cheap leftover. It’s typical of much of Keith’s solo work — more feel than melody, a few phrases rather than real verses. A rough sketch of a song. The seduction ballad “Almost Hear You Sigh” also dates from Keith’s solo album sessions, co-written with X-Pensive Winos drummer Steve Jordan. But Mick takes the lead vocal here, the sound is fleshed out (phrasings from Keith’s Velazquez classical guitar are especially nice), and the song becomes a surprising second-half highlight, almost like it’s on the second half of Tattoo You.
“Continental Drift” is psychedelic world music, a throwback to the acid-soaked days of Brian Jones’s Mellotron and Their Satanic Majesties Request. Mick and Clifford laid down the basic foundation with a Korg synthesizer and drum machine, on top of which is layered the trance-like harmonics of the traditional Berber music group known as the Master Musicians of Joujouka (recorded on location in north Africa) which builds to a mystical crescendo of lira flutes, rhaita pipes, and tebel drums. Back in London, more percussion by the African rhythmic group Farafina was added, finally topped off by the core band’s vocals and acoustic guitars.
“Break the Spell” is the album’s sonorous blues keeper, and an enjoyable Tom Waits homage. Mick does a fine job on the seedy, rasping vocals and distorted harmonica, and Woody does his best to make his electric bass guitar sound like he’s slapping an old stand-up bass. “Slipping Away” is another one of Keith’s slow-jam closers, now a firm tradition.
The 1980s ended just as the Stones ended their American Steel Wheels tour. The European leg, known as the Urban Jungle tour, kicked off the 90s.
Bill Wyman was rumored to be…oh, shit, he actually quit in 1991. Already shame-facedly divorced from his teen bride, the official announcement of his long-threatened departure was not made for over two years. He would not be replaced. Henceforth, the bass parts would be covered by hired hands, mostly Darryl Jones from Miles Davis’ band.
The 1990s would bring two more albums. The Don Was-produced Voodoo Lounge in 1994 (a full review of which can be found in the Holy Bee archives) was solid, but Mick sniffed it was too “retro,” resulting in 1997’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink overbaked mess of Bridges To Babylon, where seemingly every track had a different production team and session players outnumbered the band. Factionalism grew stronger. The band’s now-very large staff and support crew admit that you are either “Team Jagger” or “Team Richards” and you’d better choose a side or you won’t last long. But at least the factions can cooperate when it counts.
Their last original album, 2005’s A Bigger Bang, was mostly forgettable, and in recent years the Rolling Stones have existed primarily as a concert act. Though their big draw is those same dozen or so classic-rock radio hits (you know what they are) in stadiums from St. Louis to Helsinki, there’s always a few deep cuts, and they usually have some interesting covers (“Bob Wills is Still the King,” “The Nearness of You”) ready to go. The opening act on one recent tour, Jack White, marveled that the band still had lengthy discussions on exactly how to play “Satisfaction.” They still care.
So I still hold out hope for the band. Hell, they’re my favorite.
2016’s tossed-off electric blues covers album Blue and Lonesome was quite spry, with a wonderfully rough, scuzzy tone — and no backing singers! As of this writing, Mick Jagger has just turned 76 and has bounced back from a heart valve replacement procedure. Keith Richards, 75, has confessed his last remaining vices are “a little wine with meals, and a Guinness or a beer or two.” Charlie Watts will soon turn 80.
They just kicked off their latest U.S. tour. They dug “Sad Sad Sad” out of mothballs for opening night. And they’re recording a new album.
Fingers crossed. No matter what happens, it’s bound to be better than Undercover.