Billy Milano is 53. Let that sink in a while. If you grew up worshiping S.O.D. and his later offshoot act, M.O.D., or had the pleasure of being annihilated by him in the mosh pits of L’Amour Brooklyn, it’s almost impossible to imagine the man as anything but the loud mouth, barrel chested bruiser he was back in the 80s and 90s. We all grow up though. We all get older, change and evolve. All except Billy, that is. Busted, Broke & American is the first M.O.D. album since 2007s Red White and Screwed, and if you’re expecting a wiser, more restrained Billy, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. This is vulgar, angry New York hardcore crossover metal and it’s not subtle or nuanced in the least, and I can’t imagine it any other way with Mr. Milano involved. It’s also a veritable cross-section of the hardcore and classic punk genres with numerous nods to the style’s legendary acts. But does the M.O.D. sound still resonate all these years after their creative peak?
Going back and listening to the old M.O.D. stuff, it’s shocking how offensive the lyrics actually were. Racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, they offended everyone and anyone, and in my youth, I soaked it all in and found it hilarious. Busted lacks the obvious put downs of minority groups and gays, but it’s still plenty vitriolic. Billy’s wrath now seems focused on the American government, society and the economy, with frequent tirades about poverty and broken dreams. Opening with a speech from President Eisenhower decrying the military-industrial complex and ending with a speech from President Kennedy warning of secret and closed societies, this might seem a more cerebral foundation than the typical M.O.D. fare. Fear not though, as it gets plenty nasty very quickly. Opener “The Final Declaration” is a savage, thrashy call to arms with more aggression than many youthful thrash acts could conjure up, and the chorus is surprisingly powerful and compelling. It has an Agnostic Front vibe and its punky energy is infectious like conjunctivitis. “You’re a Fucking Dick” is a throwback to the band’s older material with hardcore speed mixed with tongue-in-cheek goofiness. It’s plenty juvenile but amusing nonetheless.
The remainder of Busted is cynical, hostile and boisterous, with the title track delivering both a screed against the U.S. economy AND high-end coffee-house culture replete with the immortal line “You’re a frappuccino fucking asshole.” The song has a huge Murphy’s Law influence but it’s way more hostile than those cornball cutups ever were. “Hooligan” channels The Misfits when it’s not trying to d-beat your face in, and the seemingly autobiographical “Shattered Dreams and Broken Glass” also utilizes that bouncy, oddly catchy style despite the thrashy delivery. Billy even attempts some Danzig-esque hollering here with semi-respectable results.
Most of the songs are under 3 minutes and by its nature the album roars past like a drive by, lasting just over 32 minutes. While Billy’s vocals are recognizable for the most part, this doesn’t sound all that much like the classic M.O.D. material except for an occasionally familiar sounding riff or silly vocal choice. A lot of the lyrical subject matter devolves into talk of fights and street beat downs, which is less convincing coming from a guy in his 50s, but the hardcore attitude is there and it sounds legitimate more often than not. That said, it’s not really breaking any ground in hardcore or metal and though it’s a painless spin overall, it pales in comparison to the band’s classic material.
Billy himself sounds surprisingly powerful and bellicose. He has a strong, hoarse roar and sounds convincingly pissed off for much of Busted. His attempts to sing are not as bad as you might expect, but they’re not exactly technically proficient either, especially on the finale of “Go Go Revolution.” His backing band is competent and at times impressive, as on “The Final Declaration,” and they successfully pay homage to punk acts like Mucky Pup and D.R.I. with some of their riffs and rhythms (not surprising as drumming is handled by Felix Griffin of D.R.I. fame).
Billy has said this will likely be the last album he’ll ever do, and as a finale to his on-and-off-again career as a hardcore icon of sorts, there are worse ways to go out. Busted, Broke & American is better than much of M.O.D.‘s 90s and 00s material, and there’s definitely a defiant, fuck the world attitude that makes for a fun listen, but it’s still a mixed bag of punk crud. Not as riotous and comical as the old stuff, not as deadly serious as hardcore heavyweights like Agnostic Front or Madball, it’s off in its own little crossover bubble. Not essential, but way more youthful and pissed off than most 53-year-old dudes could ever pull off. Kudos, Billy. You’re one of a kind.