Almost every band has that album: you know, the critically and/or commercially reviled dud in an otherwise passable-to-radical back catalogue. Occasionally, a Decibel staffer or special guest will take to the Decibel site to bitch and moan at length as to why everybody’s full of shit and said dud is, in fact, The Shit. This time around, Greg Pratt defends M.O.D.’s Surfin’ M.O.D.
Behind-the-scenes communiqués regarding this piece confirmed that I indeed have my work cut out for me (“Haha, GOOD LUCK, you will need it!”), but I’m up for the challenge of defending M.O.D.’s 1988 EP Surfin’ M.O.D. And it’s not just that I think some of the songs are legit good and the skits are actually not completely cringey, but I approach this like my recent justification of Discharge’s haywire-glam album: if that album was released today by Toxic Holocaust, we’d all love it. And you know what? If Municipal Waste released their Surfin’ Waste EP today and it was just Surfin’ M.O.D. re-recorded, we would be going apeshit over it. We would consider the skit parts to be hilarious and the tunes to be party-mosh worthy. Yet, no one sits around talking about how funny and how kinda-shredding Surfin’ M.O.D. actually is.
Let’s change that.
So, the meat of this thing is the 23-minute track “The Movie,” which is a series of skits broken up with songs. The fact that M.O.D. mainman Billy Milano thought to do this and then a label agreed to release it is just bonkers. It follows the adventures of our hapless couple Bill and Katrina, who go from carefree surfin’ youth to learning about the struggles of keeping a relationship together. Bill and Katrina are growing up before our ears… or at least Katrina is.
Or, I don’t fucking know, man, but it is moderately amusing to listen to.
Like I said, there are songs in “The Movie,” as well (the songs are also, helpfully, on the EP extracted from “The Movie”). “Surfin’ U.S.A.” is something I never need to hear again in any capacity, although I do find this version kinda fascinating just because I can’t really figure out if M.O.D. are making fun of it or covering it sorta irony-free. Either way, you’ve got Milano singing “Surfin’ U.S.A.” so you know it’s a good time.
“Surf’s Up” is an original that could completely be a Municipal Waste song and we’d love it: it’s surf rock delivered via crunchy crossover. It’s goofy but somehow works, especially during the awesome chorus. It’s fun crossover, and it’s fully justifiable.
“Sargent Drexell Theme” is insane and “Mr. Oofus,” well, nothing to see here, but “Party Animal” is close to “normal” M.O.D. and is a shredder, definitely a highlight here, along with the Scream cover that comes a bit later. This song reminds me how when M.O.D. weren’t screwing around—which was very rarely—they were able to toss off meaty crossover with the best of them.
A few covers close things off and I wish I didn’t even have to get into it, but we’ve got Chicago’s “Color My World,” which is actually kinda funny for one listen due to its absurdity, The Isley Brothers’ “Shout” (Jesus Christ this one goes on for way too long and kinda like “Black Betty” is just nails on a chalkboard to me, performed by anyone) (update: the more I listen to this while writing this article, the more hilarious it becomes that the band keeps this song going after it appears to stop… I grudgingly admit that that was well played, guys) and Scream’s “New Song” as a CD-only bonus track, which is a shame as it’s one of the best, and certainly most straight-up hardcore, tracks on here.
All I’m saying today is I call bullshit on anyone who scoffs at this but says Muncipal Waste—who have put out records tied together with equally outrageous concepts—are killer. The Waste are indeed killer, but let’s give respect where it’s due, to this most unlikely influencer of EPs, Surfin’ M.O.D. damn near singlehandedly paving the way for the inflatable-shark/neon-pizza party mosh devoured so wholeheartedly by many longhairs here in 2021.
In a sense, we’re rewriting history, because maybe some of the elder longhairs out there rolled their eyes at this one when it came out, but maybe, just maybe, if you squint your eyes hard enough, you can see that M.O.D. were far ahead of their time with Surfin’ M.O.D, the world finally ready here in a COVID-ravaged 2021 to have some good-time, surf-y crossover, Municipal Waste acting as unwitting messengers for the past two decades and overseeing us all slowly dipping our toes in the waters that Bill and Katrina would be happy to know we are finally willing to fully immerse ourselves in.