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Pop album review: The Bronx returns to its original sound in 'IV'

February 05, 2013|By Mikael Wood
  • The Bronx album cover, "IV"
The Bronx album cover, "IV" (ATO Records / Red )

As its title implies, "IV" is the fourth studio album from this long-running Los Angeles punk band. But that total comes with an asterisk: Following "III" in 2008, the Bronx effected an unlikely transition and released two records — both excellent — as Mariachi El Bronx, an honest-to-Dios mariachi outfit complete with brass and guitarrón. Now the group has shed the charro suits and returned to its original sound with 12 serrated hard-core jams about wasted youth and suicide. "We're not here to entertain you," singer Matt Caughthran snarls in "Ribcage," "We don't care about your rights."

That's undoubtedly true. Yet the Bronx hasn't forgotten what it learned in its more agreeable guise. In "Pilot Light," guitarists Joby J. Ford and Ken Horne weave crisp melodic lines with newfound precision, while Caughthran sings as much as he screams throughout "IV". "Along for the Ride" could pass for something by Foo Fighters, who invited Mariachi El Bronx to open a string of arena shows in 2011. There's even a kind of power ballad near the end of the album in "Life Less Ordinary": "I'm not ashamed to say I've lost my mind," Caughthran croons tenderly over a wash of deep-fuzz electric guitar, "Been walking backwards my whole life." Then he audibly clears his throat, wary perhaps of presenting too much beauty.

The Bronx

"IV"

(White Drugs/ATO)

Two and a half stars (out of four)

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