ATO RECORDS / RED
You can never really say enough about catchy. Finger snapping, toe tapping guitar riffs that maintain full ball-sack without sacrificing quality are rare and The Bronx seem able to create them with ease. Time after time, album after album, this Los Angeles five piece fuel their releases with High Rocktane badass rock n’ roll. Now The Bronx are back with IV, an unpretentious collection of guitar oriented rock jams that have no trouble staring eye to eye with pop sensibilities.
IV is a monster of an album. The Bronx stepped right up to the rock-well and drank deeply from the cool waters. Once satiated with rock goodness, the band plugged in and opened up. “The Unholy Hand” kicks the party off with a riff that oozes out like filthy sewer water. Rising from that soiled liquid are the guttural vocals of Matt Caughthran. Caughthran’s gift is his delivery more than his lyrics. Not to say his lyrics are bad, but they stand well behind his execution. Caughthran comes off like AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, with a dash of Axel Rose (before he sucked) and a smattering of Dave Smalley (Dag Nasty, Down By Law) to bring the punk aesthetic.
“Along For The Ride” reduces the dirty and opts for a more catchy groove. The song catches fire when the chorus kicks in. I dig that The Bronx don’t subscribe to the idea that catchy choruses are for pussies. On “Style Over Everything” Caughthran tones down his full on scream and adds more emotion, raising the power of the chorus and, ultimately, the song. IV is an album with no fat. The Bronx have no time for colorful extras, they are all about the rubber hitting the road. These are three-minute songs drenched in High Rocktane riffage but with a subtle core of pop goodness. Combining those elements without tipping to one side or the other isn’t easy.
“Torches” is a game changer. The Bronx take a more subtle road here, layering mid-tempo rolling drums over a much poppier riff. The Bronx plays with peaks and valleys on “Torche” more so than any other tune. They use a mellow verse that elevates into a soaring crescendo to make their point. “Torches” will be the litmus test to see if fans of The Bronx are ready to grow with them. Some will accuse the band of going soft, others will say the track lacks the attitude of earlier work. That’s just punk purist sour grapes. The Bronx kick out the same jams they always have with IV and outside of “Torches”, The Bronx hold close to their usual recipe.
Only one song is a stinker on IV. “Valley Heat” comes off way to close to a fast version of Guns N Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to the point that it distracts from the rest of the tune. The chorus is cool, but the verse just has too much Sweet Child in it to ignore. It doesn’t ruin the album, but it does take you out of the otherwise solid rock package The Bronx is presenting.
There are a few tiny issues with IV, mainly involving production. The Bronx tend to annihilate the low end by boosting the high end too much. The drums here are wonderfully powerful but lost at times within the cymbals. The bass is almost nonexistent, which reduces the power of each tune. If The Bronx commit one unforgivable crime with IV, its sticking to that old punk adage that the bass is just there as another guitar. With so much pure rock n roll going, a better dedication to the low end should be a no brainer. I could also use slightly more variation in cadence from Caughthran. I love his voice, but I’d also love for him to change it up slightly. He showed ability for that in “Torches” and I think The Bronx would be smart to expand on that.
With so many bands trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s nice when an album just brings the party, especially when said party is this much fun!