August 16, 2011

Mariachi El Bronx - II (2011)

I first started to listen to The Bronx when they released their album, 'White Drugs'. I loved them instantly, and when they played live, I freaked out. Around 2007 they were asked to release an acoustic song, that they were hesitant to do. They felt as if the whole "Unplugged" thing was played out, and kind of cheesy. Like any good punk, they answered back with fooling around acoustically and releasing "acoustic" song as a mariachi song. It really kicked ass.

From that point on, the band started to experiment with playing mariachi music, and released their 1st mariachi album, 'Mariachi El Bronx'. I fell in love with it, along with everyone else, but for some reason most reviewers felt as if the alter-ego was going to be short lived and burn out. They toured, and played split sets; first their hardcore set, then come back out in their black charo outfits. They would play their set with the authentic acoustic guitars accompanied by a vibrant horn section.

The sophomore album is just as good at the first, but I really think that they improve their music dramatically. It seems as if every good thing from the first album whacked down a shot of tequila and became louder and cooler. Something that was disappointing to me on the first album was that I felt as if a lot of the songs had a 'salsa' feel to them. They were good, but only a select few of the songs were truly 'mariachi music'. The Bronx adapted a norteno style to the new album, and seems to fit so much better. The subject matter of heartbreak, infidelity, and death is offset from music that radiates sunshine.

The emotion that the band exudes is palpable. The first track, '48 Roses' might be my favorite on the album. The song is triumphant, radiant, dynamic, and epic. It encompasses everything that I feel makes mariachi music so great: speed, rhythm, and a wall of strings and horns. Matt Caughthran's vocals are amazing on the album, with so much emphasis on sincerity and emotion that matches the lyrics perfectly. I think that I rewind the track over my favorite line every time the song plays, "So Father forgive my cold shoulder/I just don't have the time to console her/I can fall back in love when I'm older". 'Revolution Girl' is so damn catchy and upbeat that I have trouble driving to the album, due to my insane desire to grab a babe and start twirling her on the roadside. At first I thought the lyrics to 'Norteno Nights' was so cheesy with little bits of Spanish in the chorus, but it has grown on me, and is another song that has made it to the top 5 on the album. Finally, one of the more emotional songs that I relate to, is slowed down and makes me think that I should be dancing with a rose in my mouth. 'Poverty's King' has my favorite line on the album, "Everyone wants to be alone, until they are alone".

When people are surprised about the album being made by a bunch of LA punks, I can't help but see the similarities in the genres of music. It seems almost fitting that a punk band can go and feel at home making mariachi music. Both genres are young men, fed up with their failures at love, life, and progress. Both genres drip with emotion, and are an art form which requires a uniform, and a passion for playing regardless of audience. Mariachi bands tour around playing in small clubs, and play in restaurants in search of a couple of bucks to fill up the tank to get to the next destination.

Everyone should own this album. Period. De nada.


awmercy said...

I definitely have been digging this album.

Great review. Love your closing.