Friday, 13 February 2009

A Bronxxx Story


Earlier this week I'd planned to go for the standard review of the (relatively) new The Bronx album, The Bronx III. There's been an uncertainty as to how it fits in with the previous releases, though, and I felt the retentively anal need to trek back through those albums as well, for purposes of in-depth comparison. Or, more accurately, one basic once over all the way through in a listen. They've entertained me thoroughly live in the last couple of years, so it's the least I could do n'est ce pas?

So there have been various EP's and live releases down the years, but essentially the full lengthers comprise 3 albums release since 2003. Handily, these are entitled The Bronx I, II, and III.......thankfully song titles like They Will Kill Us All (Without Mercy) and Transsexual Blackout (The Movement) more than redeem individually the lack of creativity in naming the whole. Thanks to rocksound magazine I was in the loop from the get go....or at least shortly before the album made them visible....so I've had time to digest each disc as it's been spewed out. III proved a little more difficult to come by for some reason, so I was about 2 months late on the original November release date. Nonetheless, it's been digested to a sufficient degree now that it can be compared to its forebears.

I (Released Aug 2003) - Sample Tracks: White Tar

This was the raw, wild introduction that I needed to the band. Songs like 'White Tar' and the aforementioned 'They Will Kill Us All (Without Mercy)' typify the high-energy, raucous, angry yet fun attitude that they deliver so well on stage. As I recall, I was struggling to find anything at the time that had this snarling, rabid punk-tinged rock and roll, so this release stood out even more. Since Amen had become a revolving door line-up and lost much of their raw power, The Bronx really came in and filled that gap for me with this album. From a pure energy perspective, this album is the pick of the bunch and the songs still stand up now in the face of their more developed material.

II
(Released July 2006) - Sample track: History's Stranglers

Without the opportunity to catch the band live during these two releases, I pretty much lost track of their activities for some of that middle period. A friend has since mentioned he saw them at this stage and was blown away (the viper mate the VIPER!), which isn't surprising given the comments for I. So it came as something of a surprise to find songs such as 'Safe Passage' and 'White Guilt' closing out II with a hefty dose of melody and choruses that wouldn't initially sound out of place on mainstream radio. On closer inspection, though, the subject matter is still darkly rooted in destitution, drugs, and violence.....phew!

Above and beyond the harmonious efforts, the album had also opened with the powerful double-whammy of 'Shitty Future' and 'History's Stranglers', allaying any worries about a new direction before they'd even arisen. Both songs go together like Tom & Jerry, with all the latent brutality and venom required of such a comparison. This album matched the malignancy with melody and the aggression with anthems, fusing all the qualities of the band together in one unrelenting, satisfying package.

III
(Released July 2006) Sample Track: Pleasure Seekers

So what about the newie? Well having to follow such a class act as II was always going to be a challenge I suppose. Go further towards the anthemic or revert to the tried and trusted raw punk attitude? All this while trying to avoid a rehash of the sophomore effort and, inevitably, making just a poor clone that sullies both albums in comparison.

All this is really overthinking The Bronx, because they're not a band that really gives a hoot what we think. They plough a consistently 'anti' furrow that is simply rooted in writing balls out rock songs with an energy that will translate well live. The lyrics on 'Pleasure Seekers' give a nod towards their inspiration when they vent: "All we really want is someone to ignore us, 'cos all we ever get is people who control us". The track is one of a few on the album, the other notables being opener 'Knifeman' and 'Young Bloods', that really jump out at you as being the best of the band. Elsewhere, there are songs that are reasonable, energetic, but ultimately a little anonymous. Not to say bad, just not tunes that keep up the high quality of previous releases or the best of this album.

This more or less summarises the mildly underwhelmed feeling I was left with after the first run through. I knew we had a few outstanding new numbers to look forward to live, but I was also aware that the albums I'd be playing on the way to the gig would be one of the first two efforts
. III is a decent album......it just suffers in comparison to its predecessors. Perhaps more time with it will remedy some of the minor gripes, although I do remember knowing right from the off that the other two would be regularly revisited. Not the case here.


None of this latter negativity, of course, should distract from the fact that The Bronx play riotously enjoyable punk rock music with their own agenda and a live show that could get a trappist monk slamming alongside Matt Caughran in the pit. They're one of the few bands that genuinely make me want to see them time after time after time (say hello The Hold Steady, Mastodon, and Clutch) and, as such, I definitely recommend buying their tickets and plastic. Just that I would buy it out of sync: II, I, III. And outside the standard order is probably just the way a band like this should be consumed.


Official Site

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.....oh, and this post wouldn't be complete without a look at the superb video for 'White Guilt'. This is how ALL mascots should behave, take note.......




1 comment:

creativelyboundless said...

They're awesome
http://creativelyboundless.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/the-bronx/