Release Date: Nov 11, 2008
Record label: R.E.D. Distribution
Genre(s): Rock, Punk
Forget the major labels. After parting ways with Island/Def Jam and going back to their own White Drugs, they’re louder, sharper, wittier and more insolent than ever. Forget the hipster slickness of Silverlake or the fake glitz of Hollywood. The Bronx have taken their grittiness and shit-eating grinningness straight out of the Valley to give L.A.
Before tattooed ginger people on the front of Kerrang!, before massively censored NME front covers (rendering the whole exercise a little pointless), there was The Bronx and the world seemed a far more vicious and exciting place back in 2003. The front cover of The Bronx first self titled album just spoke volumes; a bloodied mouth, with the claret formed into the name of the band. You couldn’t really argue with that.
That the Bronx's third album is also their third self-titled is a testament to their self-confidence and place in the world. And if that place happens to be drunk and dribbling in the gutter then all the better. Certainly the LA punk mob have a free-spirited approach to life – as rebellious and American as the Stooges or Jack Kerouac – and every bit as compelling.
It's tempting to give the Bronx high marks for simply existing at a time when guttural punk' n' roll bands are harder to find than ever, not to mention ones as musically ferocious and lyrically left-field as these L.A. head cases. The John Reese-modelled opening chords for Knifeman remind you of a time when Rocket from the Crypt, Zeke and Electric Frankenstein still walked the earth, and for some that's a warm feeling.
The press blurb accompanying the Bronx's third album makes much of their "sloppy, out of tune, out of time" punk ethos, as if they've channelled the spirit of their LA hardcore forebears, Black Flag or the Germs. (To consolidate this, they even make a cameo as Black Flag in the forthcoming biopic of the Germs' late singer, Darby Crash.) In reality, what we get is a fairly polished album that sees the Bronx tiptoe away from their jagged post-hardcore past in the direction of catchy, driving hard rock that brings to mind a slightly undercooked Queens of the Stone Age, or even - whisper it - the Foo Fighters. It's perfectly acceptable, but therein lies the problem.
Frustrating bunch, the Bronx. The confusion implied by their name (they hail from L.A.) is further embodied in their music, a mix of sloppy thrash and heavy-bottomed boogie (imagine Anthrax partying with the Cult). Problem is, these fellas thud as often as they swing, and III veers from the near-transcendent (”Pleasure Seekers”) to the pedestrian (”Digital Leash”).
“I wanna be original, I wanna be surrounded by art/ but everything is digital the formulas are falling apart.” This initial exclamation by the Bronx on their third full-length release unfortunately seems to encompass the problems plaguing this current incarnation. While in the past (namely the debut self-titled LP) their bellicose hardcore punk exuded raw energy and cathartic fury, the new disc exudes a clean computerized sheen that robs it of its punk bristle. While the tunes on III are more rock oriented, the righteous indignation of hardcore punk that has always been the strength of the Bronx shines through, albeit somewhat murkily.