This Bronx article was written by Simon Carline, a GIGsoup contributor
Los Angeles Hardcore Punkers The Bronx wasted no time asserting their authority on the scene after their formation in 2002. It took the band a mere 12 live shows to attract the attention of Island Def Jam records who signed them up straight away. It would be awhile before they released any music on the label though; The Bronx, like many punk outfits, are men of staunch principals you see. They play by their own rules, a legacy that they have carried with them throughout their 14-years-and-counting life span. Feeling that they weren’t ready to record and release for a major label right away, they set up their own label, White Drugs, to release the ‘La Muerte Viva’ EP and their first eponymous album. The first record was a collection of rabid and unapologetic hardcore punk songs; The Bronx were in your face be it on record or in a live setting.
July 2006 brought the return of The Bronx from a period of inactivity; re-emerging as a different beast on ‘The Bronx II’. The last recording with the original line up of Joby J Ford on guitar, James Tweedy on bass and Jorma Vik on drums with Matt Caughthran providing the crooning drawl and the impassioned screams, ‘The Bronx II’ saw them create a confident record that transcended the boundaries of hardcore punk. The album was their first and only release for Island Def Jam, they added more melodies and, whisper it, a touch of a poppier sensibility but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone that would’ve accused them of ‘selling out’.
From the opening two entries on ‘The Bronx II’ it’s obvious that Caughthran and Co are going to be mixing it up second time around. Starting off with the strange and eerie Spanish Guitar of the intro track, ‘Senor Hombre De Tamale’, you’re left wondering what the band are doing before The Bronx we heard on their debut bursts in with a blistering ear-pummeller on the 52 second long ‘Small Stone’. Normality had been resumed, or so it would seem. What follows suggests that they merely needed to get something off their chests as Caughthran screams “Let’s get this right, let’s take our time. Let’s get this right, now we feel just fine”. Listening to the rest of the album would lead most to conclude that The Bronx aren’t quite fine but are fine with us drawing that conclusion.
The four songs that follow see The Bronx on an album-defining hot streak. The run starts with the almost-danceable stomp of ‘Shitty Future’, moving on to the anthemic and grizzly ‘History’s Stranglers’ before we get to a chorus that is impossible not to sing along to on ‘Oceans of Glass’ as Caughthran yells “Take me down to the ocean floor cause I don’t wanna fight no more, against these tides pulling from all sides, I’m never going back to shore”. The streak ends with a change of pace and a definite curveball in terms of what came to be expected from the band on ‘Dirty Leaves’, which provides an intriguing centerpiece with its sleazy balladry.
‘Dirty Leaves’ is one of a few numbers that dialed back the aggression for a little more subtlety; ‘Safe Passage’, the album’s penultimate track, showcased an aptitude for the blues with a Bronx twist and provided further proof that the band were no longer beholden to the scene which bred them. The same can also be said of the single and album closer, ‘White Guilt’, a song about an LA girl’s love for ‘naughty salt’. It’s The Bronx at their catchiest and, therefore, carried the most potential to polarize at the time based on the aggressive material of the album’s predecessor.
As it turned out, The Bronx never worried about polarizing their listeners again. Far from it. After ‘The Bronx II’ album cycle the band announced that they would be trying something even more outlandish on their next venture as they recorded two albums in the March of 2008. The first to be released would be a third eponymous punk album but the second was much different; an album of Mariachi music drawn from the Mexican influences that surrounded the group in LA. From that point on The Bronx have had two guises; their original hardcore punk side and their mariachi alter-ego, Mariachi El Bronx under which they have released 3 self-titled albums as they continue to go against the punk rock grain.