Sound: Warning: do not be surprised if you feel like you've had the wind knocked out of you when you first take a listen The Bronx's latest release. They come on strong, they come on loud, and they put screamo to shame. That, my friends, is exactly what rock needs.
The Bronx pulls off what many bands can't do by recreating their raw, onstage energy that all too often these days is given a back seat to overproduction of a record. In fact, the band captures so much energy on their self-titled release that you can almost feel the spit coming out of vocalist Matt Caughthran's mouth. After you listen to the brief intro Senor Hombre De Tamale on the CD, which combines a hauntingly slow, basic guitar line with what sounds like mystical chanting, you're immediately thrown into the fire.
After the abrupt ending on Senor, listeners are pounced with a series of Caughthran's screams and explosive beats from drummer Jorma Vik in Small Stone. In that quick transition, you realize that The Bronx very much intend to be remembered. The band, rounded out by guitarist Joby J Ford and bassist James Tweedy, actually do succeed in leaving a very strong impression on most of the 13 tracks on the CD.
A few tracks are incredibly infectious and will have many listeners cranking the volume even after one listen. History's Stranglers is a raging tune that starts off unassumingly, but unleashes absolute fury by the end of the first verse. Just when you think you've got the song figured out, Caughthran growls, Motherf--ker, I want your blood! By this point, the whole song seems to get louder and unrelentingly more crazed -- therein lies the beauty in The Bronx.
When the band opts for a lower tempo with toned-down singing, the results can be mixed. A song like Oceans Of Class contains a nice melody and comes across heavier than plenty of screamo bands, but when compared with the explosive nature of most of The Bronx's songs, it doesn't leave a huge impression. It's even harder to believe that it's the same band playing the ballad-like Dirty Leaves. The song has a pleasant melody and is actually quite pretty, but still it lacks the raw creativity that is consistently present in their harder songs. // 8
Lyrics: The Bronx doesn't really need to rely on lyrics given that most of the emotion comes through the musically delivery, not the words. The band definitely has some interesting lyrics that make the self-titled debut an interesting listen if you can understand what Caughthran screams/sings.
In Shitty Future, there is a sense of underlying cynicism that makes it a perfect punk tune. Caughthran sings, Slit wrists are the latest fashion; Your sheets see the dirtiest action; We're independent mammas; Broke kids and loveless gutters. The lyrical bluntness mirrors their music, which refuses to handle listeners with kid gloves.
After listening to the hardened lyrics of The Bronx's angrier tunes, it's hard to suddenly sit back and listen to a song of heartbreak. Granted, the song is a melancholy one, but it's still a bit of a hard transition. In Dirty Leaves Caughthran sings, All alone in the city by the sea; Dirty leaves fall around; All alone and suddenly it seems; Dirty leaves falls for you and me. The lyrics are straightforward and honest, but the huge leap in the forelorn direction is just a bit too distracting. // 8
Overall Impression: The Bronx is a refreshing alternative to the watered-down pop punk bands that have vacated the current music scene. The band has quite a few unique musical arrangements, with a song like Rape Zombie featuring sudden changes in the tempo and introducing interesting guitar lines throughout. While many punk bands don't stray much from a basic formula, The Bronx is not afraid to take song in several different directions in the course of one song.
While the band does branch out beyond the standard in-your-face rock tunes, the slower tracks just don't match the passion of the scream-filled ones. The very fact that The Bronx is not afraid to take a chance on a ballad is admirable and they might just create the perfect love song down the road. But for now, they have enough ammunition in their fiery tracks that the few weak spots will likely be quickly forgiven. // 8