The Bronx are not actually from The Bronx. They are from Los Angeles. My American geography may not be the best, but aren’t The Bronx, New York and Los Angeles thousands of miles/kilometres apart? Yeah, I thought so. So why is it then that these four guys from the West Coast decided to name their band after a city the other side of the country? What happened to West Coast pride? There is a good reason for this. The Bronx, NY is a rough place to live. The Bronx from California are a ‘rough’ band. It makes sense to name yourselves after a place that your music is similar to. They play a brand of hardcore punk with a touch of bluesy-rock thrown in for good measure. Basically imagine Queens of the Stone Age’s distant punk-rock cousins and you’re not too far off. Having released well received albums both self-titled (probably with the intent of causing as much confusion as possible) they have built a positive reputation for themselves within the punk community - one that they started building in 2004 with the release of their debut album.
It starts with the quiet drumming and guitar intro of ‘Heart Attack American’
, and just as soon as you’ve reached the volume dial to turn it up the track explodes with the first of many screams from Matt Caughtran. It is evident right away that he has an excellent voice as his vocal introduction is one that could literally give the faint-hearted and the old heart attacks, such is the power of it. The album opener is without a doubt the best track on the album, has since become a live staple. It has seen many sweaty rooms of people howl along with it’s chorus of “There is no revolution!” as well as moshing dangerously throughout the fast verses.‘They Will Kill Us All (Without Mercy)’
has also become a live staple, and again, with good reason. It is more of a rock song than a hardcore punk song, and this immediately differentiates it from the rest of the album. It features a blues-rock guitar part running throughout, changing slightly between verse and chorus. Once again though the vocals standout, particularly in the chorus; even if it is somewhat unintelligible it has a great sense of melody.
Many of the songs here have a great sense of melody, but none more so than ‘Notice of Eviction’
. This is a song in which Matt sings instead of shouts/screams, and although his usual vocals are brilliant the song is far better off because of it. They contrast well with the often frantic, yet melancholic guitar parts. The bass is at its most audible, especially in the bridge that sees a great texture change along with some punky snare drum work. A prominent bass line is featured in the intro to ‘False Alarm’
that is then mimicked by the guitar. The verse is very rhythmic and because it is a bit slower than most tracks here, it works very well. The chorus shows a lot of potential but would have improved greatly from being slightly more aggressive, as all the good work from the verse doesn’t really build up to a whole lot. There are no such problems in ‘Kill My Friends’
. As the title suggests it is not a heartfelt ballad, but rather a heartfelt ‘*** You!’ to those that have “...cough(ed) me (Matt) aside, and put me out like a cigarette…” It is fast, thrashy and aggressive and has excellent, staccato guitar work. ‘White Tar’
is equally frantic and sounds simple downright dirty. Its infectious chords progressions and shout-along vocals (which see Matt at his blood-curling best) make the song one of the best on the album.
The rest of the album however, isn’t up to the standard set by the songs described above. There is very little that stands out from songs such as ‘Guns Without Bullets’
and ‘I Got Chills’
. They simply seem like filler, particularly when compared to such great songs like ‘Heart Attack American’. A problem that the album suffers from is being a little too samey, and this reduces the quality of songs that maybe aren’t that great even further. The only exception is the last track on the album – ‘Strobe Life’
. It is the longest track on the album by quite a distance. Starting out with sombre, subdued guitar pluckings its energy levels increase after a short drum roll. Alongside the energetic moments it has great softer moments that make up the majority of the song. It ends the album well, even if it isn’t typical of the rest of the album at all.
When a band decides to have a self-titled
debut album, it is usually an early sign of confidence. This is because self-titled albums usually signify that that particular album is their definitive sound - their blueprint for future albums so to speak. This is the case for The Bronx. Their debut is brimming with confidence and most importantly great songs. Ideas from it were so good that they decided to carry them forward to The Bronx (II). That was an excellent album, to say the least. It was even named album of the year by British music magazine RockSound, which ***s on both Kerrang! and NME from a great height, to say the least. Having your debut album stand up to an album like that is pretty impressive, but that is just what The Bronx have done here. The Bronx (the album) is a very promising start to a career that has already seen much success, and shows no signs of slowing down.