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.
Punk rock has treated them cruelly at times, but they never neglected it. It has, however, taken them a while to record more. This fourth eponymous effort, the follow-up to 2008’s third, is a mature, less-furious beast. They haven’t dispensed with the anger, but they do release it more sparingly.
On Under the Rabbit, vocalist Matt Caughthran sounds backed into a corner and at his agitated best, and Style Over Everything is similarly under siege. “We’ve come too far, we’re too bizarre to turn back now,” he cries and, truly, it’s good to have them back. Few bands are as self-aware and true to themselves as this.
Before all that, the dizzying and brilliant The Unholy Hand sets the tone for much of the album’s subject matter. What seems at first to be a howl of misery echoed by wage slaves everywhere brilliantly pulls back and reveals itself to tell the story of someone wedded miserably to celebrity, “rotting in the spotlight”.
Thankfully, the wisdom they have to impart isn’t a soft touch. Pilot Light dispenses rough judgment on excuses while Valley Heat mocks spurious requests for advice on how to ‘make it’.
They shun any need to impress with Life Less Ordinary. The album’s only real slow-burner, it might be too wistful for some; but it does allow Caughthran to collect himself and breathe a cool melancholy into his lyrics.
How much of this material will pass the ultimate test – inclusion in their thrilling, chaotic live show – remains to be seen. Songs as bold, honest and passionate as these shouldn’t have any trouble fitting in, though.
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