It’s always nice to find punks with a sense of humor. Although AOD didn’t exactly blast off with Let’s Barbeque — six songs on seven inches recorded in 15 minutes — these New Jersey natives grew into a far better band. The first record’s sound is barrel-bottom, but the playing has a nice industrial buzz; creative use of spoken and shouted vocals punctuates the drone.
“Middle-aged Whore” on Wacky Hi-Jinks was, according to the back cover, “recorded in our underwear.” Musically, however, AOD is no joke, a fact immediately apparent from “A.O.D. vs Godzilla,” the killer stun-guitar instrumental that opens the album. Again, however, muddy production buries the vocals, spewing funny, satiric lyrics in fuzzy speedrock, leaving incisive numbers like “White Hassle” (alienation at the Castle) and the sketchy “Rock & Roll Gas Station” half of what they might have been.
The improved studio sound of Humungousfungusamongus, which opens with the monster-movie instrumental sequel “A.O.D. vs. Son of Godzilla,” allows the warp-speed quartet to vent their wit and expanding musical imagination with greater clarity than ever before. “Fishin’ Musician,” “Pope on a Rope,” “Bugs” and “The Nice Song (in the Key of D)” all put a full-frontal guitar assault to semi-clever lyrics. But AOD has other ideas: “Masterpiece” gives punks their own version of the theme music from PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre (composed in 1729 by J.J. Mouret!), while “Pizza-n-Beer” changes gears entirely for all-percussion instrumentation. Above-average hardcore for suburban smartasses. (The Buy Our version of the CD also contains Wacky Hi-Jinks.)
On 4 Bands That Could Change the World!, a concept platter shared with 7 Seconds, White Flag and F, AOD whips off three entertaining covers (of songs by the Bay City Rollers, Sex Pistols and KISS), plus a remake of its own “R&R Gas Station.” The covers are included on the Relapse reissue of Humongousfungusamongus.
Working with guitarist/producer Daniel Rey (Shrapnel, Ramones), AOD then made an enormous musical leap into the punk-pop mainstream. A neat pre-LP 12-inch (“Theme From an Imaginary Midget Western” b/w “Coffin Cruiser” and KISS’ “Detroit Rock City”) revealed the band’s new direction: clear, medium-speed rock’n’roll. Well-played and almost tuneful, the post-hardcore Cruisin’ With Elvis contains “Theme” and other deadly potshots (“Something About…Amy Carter,” “Bulemic Food Fight,” “Flipside Unclassified”) that thunder along with concise energy and the group’s typical whimsy.
Despite a change of label and producer (to Andy Shernoff of the Dictators and Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom), AOD are still their jocular rocking selves on Ishtar. Too bad they’re low on inspiration: the mildly sarcastic lyrics aren’t very clever, the music utterly routine. After an auspicious beginning with the brief “My Achin’ Back” and “Twenty Dollar Bill” (a melodic tune about finding money on the street), Ishtar downshifts into a terrible rendition of Queen’s “Sheer Heart Attack” and slides sideways from there. Unable to withstand the force of Ishtar‘s bellyflop, AOD disbanded soon after its release.
Though they receive scant attention from the chroniclers of hardcore history, AOD were influential enough to merit a pair of posthumous reissues. Sittin’ Pretty collects the first EP and LP, along with a slew of demos and compilation tracks. The 22 brief blasts on A.O.D. Themes are demos recorded by an early version of the band with Jim Foster (Electric Frankenstein) on guitar, but they’re only a couple of sonic steps below the band’s first few releases. With a little sprucing up, several of the six unreleased songs (notably “Entrapment” and “Die for a Cause,” a rare political statement) would have been album-worthy. “Suburbia (Version 2)” and “Status Symbol (Version 3)” come mighty close to the sound that made AOD, er, famous, but the rest of the songs are of fans-only caliber.
The group’s lineup in its prime — Jack Steeples (bass), Bruce Wingate (guitar), Paul Richard (vocals) and Dave Scott (drums) — has reformed briefly several times, including a 1996 reunion that produced the live Phat and Old, recorded at legendary New Jersey freeform radio station WFMU. Most recently, they performed the old hits in August 2005 at CBGB during a 20th anniversary show celebrating the New York Thrash hardcore compilation.