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After one passable rerun of a debut album in USA for MOD and the shark-jumping, kindergarten shenanigans of Surfin’ MOD, an album so ludicrously retarded that I can’t bring myself to write a review for fear of having to suffer through it once again, the future of Billy Milano’s number two project really was turning to shit. As if on cue, a striking about face in attitude and direction ripples through the M.O.D. lineup and manifests itself in Gross Misconduct, a bold return to decency and probably the best album ol’ Billy boy has ever been featured on, if you’re willing to admit that the legendary Speak English or Die was a mite bit weighted with filler.
The key distinction between this album and other Milano byproducts is a sudden social conscience in the lyrical outbursts. Though there’s still some ‘immature’ tales, such as the Batman-inspired “Dark Night” and “Godzula,” there’s now a load of grandstanding on contemporary concerns. Hearing the same guy who penned “Speak English or Die” and “Fuck the Middle East” sing about brotherhood and unity on “True Colors” and “Come As You Are” and the same guy who told folks to “Kill Yourself” warn them against the dangers of drunk driving (a third-wave thrash favorite) in “Accident Scene,” why, it’s just so delightfully absurd. Anti-devilry in “Satan’s Cronies,” safe sex in “No Glove, No Love,” and just in case you can’t figure it out through his sarcastic-sounding shout-singing, he makes a point to write a little summary of each theme in the lyric sheet. Why Billy, this is a side of you we’ve never seen before. Dare I say you’ve grown up? Nah, but I’ll take the clichés of poli-psy thrash over M.O.D.’s usual whoopee cushion comedy hour any day.
Musically, Gross Misconduct displays the same heightened level of maturity. Sophistication? I won’t go that far, but it’s hardly a stretch to say that this album is written a hell of a lot more thoughtfully than the last two. The spazzy crossover feel is still there to some extent (there’s the punk cover “In the City,” and more than a handful of speedy bass breaks), but in general this feels more like a legitimate byproduct of the New York thrash machine, see early Anthrax/Prong. The Milano/Mallare/Svitek/Monte lineup is considerably tighter than the pre-Surfin’ lineup and knows how to string riffs together to make some catchy, coherent thrash. They stay in the conventional verse/chorus range of things, but for MOD, it’s a welcome change of pace from the unorganized slur of riffs that characterized the debut. Man, is there some bang-age to be found throughout this one. Most of the songs vary the guitar attack quite dramatically amongst themselves as well as internally, with mid-paced mosh fodder in “Gross Misconduct” after some creepy buildup, not to mention the opening set of “No Hope” and “The Ride”, some big chunky chugathons in the NYHC inspired “True Colors,” and the gnarly groove of “Godzula” (how’s that for a brutal fugging verse? Blue Oyster Cult would be envious I think), and some no-nonsense thrash assaults in “Satan’s Cronies” and “Accident Scene.” Only two of the fourteen (fifteen?) tracks are the old, annoying throwaway jokes, and only the rather Anthrax-esque, sing-songy M.O.D. “Theme” leans more towards comedy than riffage. Louie Svitek even plays some cool solos when the mood suits him.
It’s also worth noting that the production on this album is pretty solid. It’s that streamlined Alex Perialas sound from the late 80’s you also hear on Testament and Anthrax albums from that period. Not as raw and ripping as his earlier sound jobs, but the even, bass-heavy production complements this album well. The evenness is important too: nothing overpowers anything else, Milano’s lead vocals blending with the instruments, the guitars and extra-thick bass melding properly…hell even the gang shouts sound pretty good on here, very Anthrax-like. I personally think the drum sound is pretty solid too. Sure, it’s like a shiny plastic spork compared to the rusty saber that was Speak English or Die, but for those who (like me) don’t mind the “polished” thrash sound that was common at the turn of the decade, this sound is right up your alley.
The lyrical themes and musical direction here are the first hints of where Milano would ultimately take his little ‘solo’ project, but there’s basically no hardcore tainting this one at all. There’s still some goofiness to be had, such as the loungeroom breakdown in “Accident Scene” and Billy’s general vocal delivery, but otherwise it’s a pretty damn decent thrash album. And from M.O.D. no less. Best hear this one for yourself.
Highlights: “Godzula,” “Satan’s Cronies,” “E Factor”
P.S. “Dark Night” isn’t on my cassette, Billy. Now you’re on my list.
I was quite sceptical in my approach to this Gross Misconduct album by M.O.D. after the quite bad (EP or album?) Surfin’ M.O.D. because it didn’t convinced me with those fillers and silly tunes. By the way, this album (we all agree about this…?) is different and shows the return to power for this overlooked band. As always, expect more “crossover” from these guys and forget about anything that is smart, light or polite. This music is for bad people with the right, impulsive attitude.
The first thing we can notice is an improvement in terms of sounds and production. This time the instruments are sharper than on the debut album and the guitars have a full sound with the pounding bass to sustain everything. The drums are quite clear but not so powerful. When the very first riffs welcome us, we can notice the groove elements on the mid-paced parts while the riffs increase in speed as the songs follow the same pace. As always the catchiness is the main word and the various choruses are here to display it.
“No Glove No Love” shows the very first faster tempo parts and the unique vocals by Billy Milano are faster and angrier. The riffs are very good and in some parts the band plays very similar to Anthrax, mixing the thrash and the hardcore very well. Even the shortest songs here, like “Vents”, “P.B.M.” and “Theme” are not so concentrated on the speed, but more on the funny vocals and the various stops where we can find the usual spoken parts. The punk influences are stronger in these parts and they are never fast but more concentrated on the catchiness of the riffs.
On the longer songs the aim is to play a sort of mid-paced thrash metal with faster restarts and less hardcore/punk elements. A perfect example could be done with “True Colours” where we can find also galloping palm mute riffs. These songs have a more complete and convincing structure and they can be appreciated also by those thrashers who love a less violent and more groove approach to this variation of metal. By the way, “Accident Scene”, “E Factor” and “Satan’s Cronies” are definitely faster if you are searching for more brutality.
The title track and some groove, mid-paced parts by the end are not so strong and they can be quite boring but there are always the faster restarts to take the listener awake and they are appreciated. Coming to the end of my review, I think this album has the best songs concentrated at the beginning, while it runs a bit out of ideas and fuel by the end. Anyway, it’s a good example of crossover and it’s far better than the previous Surfin’ M.O.D.
Whereas the First album ‘USA for MOD’ was almost the logical S.O.D. follow-up and their 1998 EP mostly consisted of covers and jokes, ‘Gross Misconduct’ was the first real test for M.O.D. And they passed it.
The threesome Mallare, Svitek and Monte made M.O.D. sound less aggressive, more grooving, polished and modern. Secondly Milanos lyrics had a very mellow moment here. Lyrics about drunk driving and using condoms. Man, how ‘granny’ can your lyrics get….Is this Mr Milano? However, it was a good album really.
There were still plenty of up tempo moments to keep the album interesting. The highlight being the thrasher ‘The Accident Scene’. Also worth mentioning is the funny song ‘Theme’ which continues the ‘Surfing MOD’ humour. Only a few other songs remind me of Milanos previous works, namely ‘Godzula’, ‘Satan’s Cronies’ and ‘PBM’. The Fear-cover ‘In The City’ is another welcome change in sound, preventing the album from becoming monotone at times.
It does not come close to S.O.D. nor the first M.O.D. album, but ‘Gross Misconduct’ does in fact stand out as the last good M.O.D. album, considering everything that came afterwards, when M.O.D. musically became a generic nineties hardcore band.