There has been a lot of talk about how The Bronx have mellowed. Gone soft. Lost their edge. Many critics wrote off their second album, ‘The Bronx II‘, stating how it lacked the aggressive, in-your-face attitude of the first, which I think is unfair. If they had delivered an almost carbon copy of the first effort, they would have been lambasted for being, unoriginal, repetitive and suffering from what I call ‘Pennywise syndrome.â€™ A logical path forward was needed and I do believe that their second effort is just as good, if not superior to their debut.
The Bronx have changed….the first album was like having some angry lunatic screaming for his next fix, whilst 3 guys who’d only just picked up instruments hammered away in the background. ‘The Bronx II‘ had the same lunatic, with his substance abuse terror replaced with melody, singing lessons but still the same volatile drive, whilst the band behind him had tighted up their act, but still had that killer drive. Now we come to their 3rd release, which borrows heavily from the 1st outing, as well as beefing up their sound, like someone feeding cows into an amp.
Thereâ€™s something about ‘Knifeman‘ that makes it such a cracking opener. Of course, itâ€™s no ‘Heart Attack Americanâ€™; but that opening convulsive riff that smacks of cool-as-fuck garage rock has an addictive quality. The chorus has a reeling, jerk-like swagger that drops and rises, similar to a ship in choppy seas or a rickety roller coaster. It’s the kind of opener that slaps you across the face, demanding you pay it attention.
Several of the tracks have a crude, stoner-rock groove, especially ‘Six Days A Weekâ€™, which in parts, is reminiscent of Fu Manchu and can be best enjoyed doing about 70mph down a dusty barren road, air-punching all the way.Ã‚Â The aggression is still here, but itâ€™s more refined â€â€œ more focused and determined than the old scrappy-sounding noise punk of 2003. Take ‘Spanish Handshakeâ€™ for example; the guitars crunch and splinter like broken bones beneath the heavy tread of an army marching to war, whilst Jorma Vikâ€™s tight and incessant drumming keeps their relentless sound in check. The rhythm section gives nods towards ‘My Warâ€™ in its dread-filled backing rumble, whilst the guitars and vocal screech still retaining this intimidating, cocksure rock ‘n roll posture.
The distorted drumming on ‘Inveighâ€™ made me think my CD was stuck, but luckily it was one of those ‘hereâ€™s a weird quiet sounding intro, so they turn the volume up on their expensive hi-fi, then blow their speakers when the drums crash in.â€™ Like every track on this album, itâ€™s absolutely thunderous. Over-the-top comparisons would liken it to a gathering storm. Caughthranâ€™s vocals are spot on during ‘Past Livesâ€™ (a song about repenting, in which he states â€œmaybe in the next life, Iâ€™ll be a hero not a criminalâ€Â); his scratchy, alcohol-ravaged delivery fits the song perfectly, even on the melodic strut of the chorus, which is akin to ‘They Will Kill Us Allâ€™ in the absolute mayhem that it will no doubt cause when they unveil it at their live shows.
Even though closing track ‘Digital Leashâ€™ is a strident blast of pent up fury from the word go, it lacks the kind closing punch that was delivered on ‘IIâ€™ in the form of ‘White Guiltâ€™ and the crashing noise rock of ‘Strobe Lifeâ€™ from ‘Iâ€™.Ã‚Â However, it’s still The Bronx through and through and is possibly the closest track to the material they recorded on their first EP. Despite ‘Young Bloodsâ€™ being made available previous to this release, itâ€™s still a riotous, pop-tinged ramshackle of rock ‘n roll splatter, retaining yet another chorus that successfully lodges itself in your memory and never leaves. Also, it contains one of the most filth encrusted solos that the band has ever produced and for this, they should be proud.
It seems The Bronx have been taking tips from Panthers, as ‘Pleasure Seekersâ€™ cannons past under a wave of scrawling fuzz and distorted, echo-effected vocals (which make Caughthranâ€™s powerful bark seem even more savage); with the same arrogant stride as the Brooklyn noise-makers. Itâ€™s the kind of eerie spaced out drone that you wouldnâ€™t associate with a band of The Bronxâ€™s calibre, but itâ€™s an inventive and intriguing step forward.Ã‚Â ‘Enemy Mindâ€™ on the other hand, skips along at a more melodic pace, before getting progressively louder, showing just how heavy and discordant The quintet have become.
The fact of the matter is, any one of these tracks could be single material. Whilst each track may follow a predictable structure of verse-chorus-verse-chorus, The Bronx know how to deliver and they do it with far more style, intensity and force than many bands of their ilk.
A cracking 3rd release from a band that hasnâ€™t thrown a duff ball in their entire career; long may The Bronx continue with this kind of high quality â€â€œ welcome back guys. I’d go out on a limb and say that this is the strongest collection of songs of their career – unstoppable power from a band who keep raising the bar in delivering quality punk rock. Better amend my end of year list….now, about getting a new Drips albumâ€Â¦
By Ross Macdonald