Release Date: Feb 5, 2013
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Punk Revival
When L.A. hardcore outfit the Bronx reinvented themselves as a mariachi band in 2009, releasing two surprisingly unironic albums under the Mariachi El Bronx moniker, it was hard to imagine they'd change course again. After all, they did the Mexican folk music thing so persuasively - and with so much fun - that there was no reason to believe they'd ever stop.
Along with the fearless Fucked Up, the Bronx have shown themselves to be a band that straight-up refuse to be tied to the limitations of punk/hardcore, and who now essentially exist as two separate entities; one that thrives on dirt-caked punk ’n’ blues, and the other, a traditional mariachi band known as Mariachi El Bronx. Musically, both projects are at polar opposites of the sonic-spectrum, but such artistic diversity provides a necessary distraction that keeps each style of music exciting for the band, with Matt Caughthran’s voice—think Black Francis of the Pixies raised on Black Flag and Minor Threat—being the common ground between the two; albeit in a suitably toned down state for Mariachi El Bronx. Of course, not every fan of the “heavier side” of the Bronx is going to get (or like) the mariachi side, and vice versa.
A side of The Bronx you're yet to hear... With a new year comes The Bronx’s new album. And with it, a new reason to say “fuck the world” and mean it. Things open pretty normally for a Matt Caughthran-led attack; “Are you the Antichrist or the Holy Ghost? / Do you want to die or just come real close?” spits the frontman in ‘The Unholy Hand’ with a swagger to match Die Hard’s John McClane.
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.
LA’s The Bronx find themselves in a curious position on their fourth record. Their last two albums (after the hardcore punk of ‘The Bronx I’, ‘II’ and ‘III’) were as Mariachi El Bronx, their unexpectedly successful side-project. And what this foray into Mexican folk music has done for the quintet is hone their skills in the decidedly un-punk use of melody and restraint.
L.A. punk rockers the Bronx have always been leaning closer to the rock side of things than the punk, moving further from the brazen Fugazi-meets-Stooges energy of their 2003 debut with each subsequent release. Ten years after that raging debut, an older, more road-ragged Bronx offer up a fourth volume of songs, this time with a metal sheen outshining any punk roots that might have been in the forefront at the band's beginning.
There is a natural cycle to careers in rock: artist makes an ungodly racket on debut to cover up shyness / songwriting shortcomings, subsequent releases refine the formula and begin to tip the scales in favour of the tunes and eventually they either get such accomplished musicians that the polished production follows, opening them up to a new audience and dividing the original fans. There's enough of The Bronx left in here to suggest they're a way off of realising that final scenario, but they stand a bit nearer the brink. Album four both benefits and suffers from the band's prolonged stint as Mariachi el Bronx.
The Bronx have always represented a sort of ideal situation, a successful combination of hardcore, hard rock, and unabashed pop hookery. On each of the Los Angeles band's four self-titled albums, they never spin into saccharine or maudlin territory, keeping the volume loud and Matt Caughthran's vocal cords consistently shredded. If there was any justice in the world, they would be completely dominating modern rock radio instead of continuing to absolutely tear things up on a more underground level.
The Bronx were young once. They played punk rock at searing speeds, packing L.A. dive bars with concertgoers who wanted to be hit with fat power chords and the deafening howls of frontman Matt Caughthran. Their early records are rabid and feisty — they sound of youth. Then The Bronx met The Music ….
If you’ve seen The Bronx live at any point in the past five years, you’ve probably also seen – or had the opportunity to see – their mariachi selves. Along with added brass section and suitably fancy costumes, the LA punks have toured consistently as both outfits concurrently since the release of 2009’s ‘Mariachi El Bronx’ debut. This made the lack of a Bronx record to pair with its 2011 follow-up appear a little strange.‘IV’, to use its semi-official title thanks to the band’s insistence on self-naming everything in sight, is a wondrous beast.
LA punks return with a new set of bold, honest and passionate songs. Alistair Lawrence 2013 There’s no one quite like The Bronx. One of only a few bands whose music is as loud as it is thoughtful, they’ve never been cradled comfortably by a genre or scene. When the band sprung mariachi alter-egos it was surprising but made sense: the soulful streak that sashayed through their heavier material was brought to the fore and they began to reach the audiences critics predicted would flock to them previously.