Though it might seem hacky to laud the Bronx with backhanded descriptors like "workhorse" and "reliable," there is a steely truthfulness to be found in them; as the band oscillates between Mariachi el and Bronx du jour, the L.A. five-piece have seldom tread the path less traveled, and V is no different.
In fact, this fifth album may perhaps be the most "Bronx" the Bronx have been since their Ferret Records debut. This time around, there's a bit more meat than potatoes, and while the Bronx have never been the kind of band to dabble in ….
Five albums deep and billing themselves as The Greatest Punk Rock Band In The World, who are we to argue with a statement like that? It’s bands like The Bronx that still breathe life into a good old-fashioned 'three chords and the truth' full-pelt-brawler of a record, the sort of bands who resurface in timely fashion, just as guitar music begins to feel stale, delivering a fistful of rabble-rousing bangers that inexplicably still set the heart racing and the adrenaline pumping every time.
The Bronx aren’t a rock and roll band, they are rock and roll - without any of the bullshit, or the rock star complexes, or the Spinal Tap pretension, or the unearned plaudits. They’ve done the miles, they’ve played till they passed out, they’ve spilled blood and sweat and god knows what other bodily fluids over the years.
The fifth in a series of self-titled albums and their first in four years finds LA punks The Bronx in a curious position. While their reputation was crafted around the blind fury of the chaos they created both on record and on stage, 2013’s IV eschewed their signature ferocity in favour of a more considered version of punk rock. These punks had grown up, and their fans weren’t entirely happy about it.
But it’s disingenuous to claim that The Bronx have lost any of their potency on this record.
If ever there was a time for a new record from The Bronx, 2017 is surely it; even if they’ve never been a band with an explicit political bent to their songwriting, just the sheer fury of their honest-to-god hardcore sound should be enough to provide catharsis to listeners caught up in the current maelstrom of global turbulence. ‘V’ ‘s their fifth album and first as The Bronx - as opposed to alter-ego Mariachi El Bronx - for four years, and as it happens, it does see the group begin to look beyond the usual thematic palette of personal discontent and disapproval of those outside of the hardcore scene.
The loss of long-time drummer Jorma Vik last year doesn’t seem to have hit them especially hard, with former Social Distortion man David Hidalgo, Jr.
In the long run, V showcases a band who have perfected the art of loud, chant-worthy music, however, the in between where there’s room to obtain something grander simply isn’t present. Instead of pushing for advancement, V shows a band that continues to settle.
While V’s songs aren’t stylistically awful, there’s more to the album that leaves a feeling of being shortchanged aside from its predictability. Matt Caughthran’s lyrics are oftentimes watered down declarations that prove there isn’t much thought behind what’s being said.
It's been five years since the Bronx have released a non-mariachi record, and while plenty of fans have come to prefer the band's surprisingly well-composed, faithful mariachi songs, there's another sect of listeners longing to replicate that feeling some ten years ago when the fury of "Heart Attack American" first knocked them on their collective asses. The Bronx IV never really reaches those kinds of heights–and really, nothing in their discography has since then–but it still rocks pretty hard.
The band have evolved into a rock powerhouse over the years, whether fans wanted it or not: Their newer songs put melody at the forefront as opposed to sheer ferocity, melding Matt Caughthran's rough-but-mostly-clean vocals with enormous riffs, driving tempos and anthemic choruses.