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Music Reviews

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Castle Talk
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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
The Bronx
The Bronx III
White Drugs

Rating: 6.7/10 ?

February 24, 2009
Seems like nowadays everyone's ready for change. Everyone, that is, except for west-coast punks The Bronx. In the tradition of releasing eponymous albums, the five-piece continues with more of the same on The Bronx III. Purveyors of brash, distinctly American gutter-rock, the Los Angeles natives--whose namesake reps a borough 3000 miles away--have reverted back to their tried-and-true sound, a move that has earned them modifiers such as, "heavy" but "safe."

SoCal's current punk scene is but a distant relative of its original incarnation, one that had--starting in the late 1970s and continuing throughout the 80s--churned out seminal punk acts like The Germs, Black Flag, and X. Shuttering The Strip's hallowed punk grounds and diluting the genre with metal, alternative, and pop influences almost sounded the death knell for the Golden State's once robust punk community. But, as they say, punk isn't dead. With a contingent of those preserving the hardcore spirit and a few storied venues still standing (see: Whiskey A Go Go and The Smell), the scene's piss-and-vinegar temperament and DIY ethic carries on. Though, punk of old has evolved into a self-conscious modern day version of itself, one that is less unkempt but attempts to maintain the voice of the disenfranchised.

Departing from the corporate stable at Island/Def Jam proved to be a interesting strategy for The Bronx, who have released The Bronx III on their own independent label, White Drugs. The fast and not-so-dirty 33-minute III is tighter than the band's previous efforts, paying more mind to production quality than it wants to let on. Somewhat raw and assaulting (or as "raw" and "assaulting" as a quality studio album can be), The Bronx obviously manage to distance themselves from the Los Angeles hipster scene that they clearly oppose.

Frontman Matt Caughthran alternates between husky growl and melodic segue, though mostly spends his time with the former. III's voice-straining tracks, like "Enemy Mind" and "Digital Leash," bring to mind a vocal likeness akin to Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die, who The Bronx have previously toured with. Caughthran barks, "And I don't know what's found/ cuz we used to be gifted and persistent/ Now we're bored/ reminiscent," on opener "Knifeman." He also shows off his pipes, hitting "Young Bloods'" higher register in his usual coarse shout. As a whole, the album's weightiness is well-suited for the band's raucous disposition. The punchy "Ship High in Transit" opens with a throb of tom-toms and electric guitar and climbs with rousing howls. For much of their repertoire, the go-to maneuver seems to consist of building the sound to a fever pitch and then regressing; it works but, at the same time, loses that spontaneous rock feel.

The Bronx III is muscular and solid and is, more often than not, good clean fun. While the album doesn't quite connect to youth culture in the way that punk did in its formative days, it taps into the genre's core ideology and delivers a glossed-over, contemporary version that's good enough for your favorite hole-in-the-wall bar.

Reviewed by Lara Longo
Lara Longo is a writer and photographer from Brooklyn, NY. In 1989, Lara received her first CD player and album, Appetite for Destruction; ever since, music is something she has fawned over, hated on, and played loudly. Her work has also appeared in Relix and New York Cool. Lara’s interests include sharks, European television, and the Hammond B3 organ.

See other reviews by Lara Longo



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