[5th February, 2013]
[White Drugs/ATO Records]
01. The Unholy Hand
02. Along For The Ride
03. Style Over Everything
04. Youth Wasted
05. Too Many Devils
06. Pilot Light
08. Under The Rabbit
10. Valley Heat
11. Life Less Ordinary
12. Last Revelation
The Bronx is a band that I have known about since high school. I remember the cleverly crafted cover of their debut album, and their tour supporting The Distillers that rolled through my town the summer before university (I still kick myself for not going). At that point in my life I was enveloped in my 80′s hardcore obsession, and had little interest in finding new, active bands to follow. After my first listen to The Bronx with their upcoming release Bronx (IV), it is evident that their hard edged West Coast riffs and fresh but faithful take on hardcore punk would have fit in seamlessly with my late adolescent musical vacuum. The band’s sound mixes punk with very obvious hard rock influences, much like the unabashedly AC/DC-loving 80′s Boston hardcore titans DYS.
Founded in 2002, the Bronx is bearing the torch of the 80′s So Cal punk scene into the 21st century. The 2007 film What We Do Is Secret, a biopic of the Germs’ iconic singer Darby Crash, features The Bronx as Black Flag performing the song “Police Story”. Their appearance in the film and tribute to the seminal hardcore band was slightly more genuine than the portrayal of Black Flag by Rise Against in the 2005 film Lords of Dogtown (performing “Nervous Breakdown” and sounding like an impression or caricature of Keith Morris and co.).
Bronx (IV) is the band’s first release as the Bronx since 2006. In 2009 and 2011 the band released records as Mariachi el Bronx, their aptly named (and costumed) mariachi alter ego. While doing research for this article I discovered, much to my surprise, that I had seen the Bronx live last summer opening for Gogol Bordello as Mariachi el Bronx.
Their latest effort is a very well rounded album, with tones and moods that vary greatly from song to song. The record is solid from start to finish, with every track a uniquely compelling contribution. In true punk fashion, the 12 songs clock in at a little over thirty minutes.
The opening track “Unholy Hand” is loud, fast and upbeat with delightfully sacrilegious lyrics and swaggering guitar work characteristic of The Bronx. “Youth Wasted” is a stand out track as well, with its heavy guitar riffs and catchy chorus displaying all of the energy and ferocity of a young punk band. The lyrics, however, are heartfelt and nostalgic; the reflections of musicians much wiser and more seasoned than their exuberance makes them appear. The song title calls to mind the long established tradition of punk bands proudly touting the waste of their youth, with the song conveying a more rueful view of these circumstances.
The penultimate track, “Life Less Ordinary”, is a sombre, earnest guitar and vocal ballad that is strikingly different from the rest of the album tracks. With solemn lyrics like ‘I’m not ashamed to say I’ve lost my mind; I’ve been walking backwards my whole life’, this song seems to be the musings of a long-touring band, or maybe a love song for the City of Angels. The final track “Last Revelation” ties in more with the rest of the album as it is fast and heavy but still catchy- just how I like my punk. Bronx (IV) is overall a very good and consistently engaging record that demonstrates the relevance of the Bronx in the larger narrative of modern hardcore punk.
Bronx (IV) comes out February 5th on White Drugs/ATO Records. Preorders are available through the band’s site and iTunes. The album artwork cunningly incorporates the band’s name (reminiscent of their debut release) and the bright red vinyl test pressing on The Bronx’s web site looks absolutely stunning. New York and California tour dates in support of the album release early next month are sold out, but there are tickets still available for the extensive UK tour that goes to the end of February.