The band's mariachi commitment has been rewarded with serious coverage
Mike Diver 2009-08-14
Never was a record more a case of ‘does what it says on the sleeve’ than this fourth studio long-player from Los Angeles-based (usually) hardcore quintet The Bronx: while it continues the band’s habit of only ever self-titling their releases (pity poor iTunes), it replaces muscular punk rock with affectionately arranged mariachi rhythms.
Frontman Matt Caughthran manages the switch from throat-shredding hostility to tender torch-song sing-alongs remarkably well, showcasing a depth to his vocals that few could have foreseen after three previous albums characterised by aggression, albeit of a controlled and rather cartoon variety. He shines throughout this album, like never before.
Musically, though, there are few surprises. This is precisely what an absolute beginner would expect from a mariachi album: all Spanish guitar twangs, brass toots and sprightly, albeit fairly passive, percussion present and correct. It’s hard to know just how faithful it is without studying the genre in greater depth, but if The Bronx’s aim is to introduce new ears to a variety of music that’s existed since the 18th century, then they’ve unequivocally succeeded.
The pace is uniformly steady – there are no fancy flourishes designed to set the hairs on edge, and consistency is established through a succession of gently swaying arrangements that caress the ear drums into contentment. It’s not the kind of delight that has your fingertips feeling electrified, nor the sort that spins your stomach around and has you wondering how you never heard this music before – this is simply an accomplished set of songs that pay homage to a form of music that rarely gets heard outside of Mexico.
As such, the repeat-play value of Mariachi El Bronx is strictly limited – it is something of a novelty album, and certain sections of The Bronx’s fanbase will regard it as indulgence for the sake of it; fun for sure, but only for a listen or two. Yet as the end product of a labour of love for its makers it should be regarded as a fine achievement, and the band must be proud that their commitment has been rewarded by serious critical coverage.
But next time out: plug the guitars in, okay guys?