Well… The Bronx is back. After they’ve spent the better part of the last five years parading around as Mariachi El Bronx, the LA-based punk band has released their fourth self-titled studio album (although it’s their sixth if you count the mariachi albums). Since the band never really went anywhere, it wouldn’t really be fair to consider The Bronx IV to be a “return-to-form” album, although after the five year absence that’s almost exactly what the album sounds like. On The Bronx IV, the band returns to their punk rock roots, delivering twelve songs bursting full of energy and heavy riffs.
Musically speaking The Bronx IV plays similarly to the rest of the band’s punk rock-oriented catalogue- particularly the more modern hard rock sounds that the band has been developing since 2006’s The Bronx II. Whereas most bands like to experiment with their sounds and shift things up four albums in, it seems as if the members of The Bronx have gotten all of their experimental wants and needs out of their systems with Mariachi El Bronx, because The Bronx IV contains very little trace of new elements. Instead, The Bronx offers up a collection of fun and vicious songs that tighten up the loud and dirty rock and roll sounds of 2008’s The Bronx III. These are songs that sound equally amazing whether you’re speeding down a highway or taking shots of whiskey at your local dive bar.
Amidst the blaring guitars and pounding drums, lead vocalist Matt Caughthran lets out his most vicious screams in years. Caughthran roars his way through tracks like “The Unholy Hand” (in which he demands “Are you the Anti-Christ or The Holy Ghost? Do you wanna die or just go real close?”) and “Under the Rabbit” (Caughthran’s delivery of “This is the best life my money could buy!” sends shivers). The rest of the band rips furiously through the album perfectly, but with The Bronx it’s always Caughthran’s vocals that sell each song and the band keeps to the tradition with this album.
Even with all this power coursing through its veins, The Bronx IV takes the occasional moment to slow things down. “Torches” and “Life Less Ordinary” wind up being some of the slowest songs that the band has ever written, but even with the lack of the band’s usual in-your-face aggression, the band more than makes up for it with a sharp sense of melody (particularly the former, which isn’t even all that slow). Caughthran’s impressive vocal range is probably best showcased in these songs, as The Bronx is primarily an outlet for Caughthran to release his screams, so when softens to the level of singing entire songs, it’s something that the listener is going to pay attention to. Granted, there’s lots of singing on the band’s mariachi albums, but there’s a reason why those albums were released under the Mariachi El Bronx moniker.
If there are any faults with The Bronx IV, it’s that the album returns too much to form, and some songs just get buried into the album. Individually the songs are all great sounding, but it’s hard to remember a song like “Too Many Devils” when it’s sandwiched between the far superior “Youth Wasted” and “Pilot Light”. The same could be said for “Valley Heat”, which unfortunately finds itself wedged into the tight space between the heavy-hitting “Ribcage” and the aforementioned “Life Less Ordinary”. Not that these are bad songs, but they’re missing a certain something that gives them an edge to stick out among the rest. A tad bit more diversification in tempo wouldn’t have hurt anything.
The Bronx IV is not necessarily a comeback album, because the band never actually went anywhere. But it’s been so long since this incarnation of the band has been heard from that The Bronx IV may as well be the first big comeback of the year. Five years is a pretty long time to make fans wait, but The Bronx IV was well worth it. That said; hopefully we won’t have to wait until 2018 before the release of The Bronx V.