They say good things come in threes; by the sound of Los Angeles rock band The Bronx’ latest release, three’s certainly a charm. MariachiEl Bronx III stands as the third traditional Mariachi album from the LA-born punk outfit, and it comes with all of the gusto, and none of the shortcomings. By shortcomings I refer to any rumours that claim a punk band can’t play folk – The Bronx have well and truly stamped out such frivolous assertions.
It has been years since The Bronx made the plucky transition across genres, and yet despite the two acclaimed albums that have graced our music scenes since, the Californian five-turned-eight piece are by no means finished. The bold leap cut through all claims of ridiculousness, replacing them instead with a minesweeping debut of sheer glory. Following Mariachi El Bronx II’s debut in 2011, which boasted a number one on Billboard’s Alternative New Artist chart and various high profile television and radio performances including “Late Show with David Letterman,” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” one wonders what tricks El Bronx could possibly have up their sleeves to top their mind-blowing precedent.
The usual cast of The Bronx is joined by Keith Douglas, Ray Suen and Vincent Hidalgo to form the almighty Mariachi El Bronx. They recorded their third escapade at Haunted Hallow Studios in Charlottesville, Virginia, an area near destitute of human activity. It was in this solace that the mariachi aficionados conjured their din-filled seventh studio album. The LP twists and turns through the familiar trumpet bravado and graceful violins, soaring vocals and shaker claps; but on top of this, the album demonstrates a clearer balancing act of the two genres. The band has ever so slightly toned down the mariachi bravado a notch, and The Bronx’s identity comes more into play. The Bronx does not just shape itself into mariachi form, they truly engage with it in a way that they haven’t before.
Watch Revolution Girls from 'II' played live on David Letterman
‘Valya’ begins with a whirlwind instrumental – cowbells, trumpets, guitarron, you name it – which simmers down with the entrance of Caughthran’s verse, and is joined by the throaty rock star vocals. This playful exchange of sound soars above the incessant tapping rhythms that also plague ‘Raise The Dead’, ‘Wildfires’ and pretty much every other track on the album. Caughthran sings nostalgic lyricism of love and religion, whilst the mariachi infusion canters across each record. The band manages to capture the delicate yet rousing mix of seriousness and jollity in the lively opener ‘New Beat’: the familiar acoustic serenade meets Caughthran’s provocative social commentary, and once again, we are presented with yet another trinket of mariachi, off-duty punk style.
Lead vocalist Matt Caughthran in 2008 branded Mariachi El Bronx’s endeavours as “all original music, traditional mariachi stuff, and it's the punkest thing in the world for a band like The Bronx to put out a record like that”. Perhaps this is where the story begun – a pursuit of something outrageously “punk”. Yet eight years on, these musicians have honed their distinct twist on the mariachi genre, and demonstrate an inimitable engagement with the tradition.
The release of Mariachi El Bronx III comes with the golden announcement that the band will be on the road this December with a number of European dates alongside the theatrical Gogol Bordello, the royalty of Gypsy Punk. With such a show-stopping combination, who knows what will happen next.
Words - Claudia Turnbull
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