The Bronx - The Bronx IV (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Bronx

The Bronx IV (2013)

ATO / White Drugs

It's been five years since the Bronx have released a non-mariachi record, and while plenty of fans have come to prefer the band's surprisingly well-composed, faithful mariachi songs, there's another sect of listeners longing to replicate that feeling some ten years ago when the fury of "Heart Attack American" first knocked them on their collective asses. The Bronx IV never really reaches those kinds of heights–and really, nothing in their discography has since then–but it still rocks pretty hard.

The band have evolved into a rock powerhouse over the years, whether fans wanted it or not: Their newer songs put melody at the forefront as opposed to sheer ferocity, melding Matt Caughthran's rough-but-mostly-clean vocals with enormous riffs, driving tempos and anthemic choruses. "Along For The Ride," "Youth Wasted" and "Too Many Devils" are good examples of this, and three of the best songs the Bronx have written in years; the latter in particular really ups the intensity through two-pronged, distorted guitars and massively bouncy drums.

Curveballs on the second half of IV include the excellent "Torches," which utilizes the quiet-loud dynamic nicely, showcasing the Bronx's ability to merge quieter melody in the verses and louder, more rambunctious melody in the choruses. It also includes the middling "Life Less Ordinary" as the penultimate track, in which the band ditch drums, loud guitars and well, everything that make the Bronx the Bronx in favor of a more minimalistic sound. While it's hard to fault the band for trying to take their sound somewhere new for a few minutes, it just isn't nasty or realized enough. It's surrounded by enough quality sound, though–the frantic "Ribcage," the punishingly heavy "Valley Heat"–that this slight misstep is quickly forgotten.

With all the bands that have tried to match the punk rock energy and classic rock swagger of the Bronx since they've been gone, it's wonderful that they've temporarily put el trajes mariachi back in the closet to rock with us for a spell. IV is a worthy return that shows the Bronx still have those chops.