Monday, 3 August 2009

Mariachi El Bronx

I was an avid reader of Kerrang! back in 2003. I still think it was a good magazine back then and not so sycophantic and aimed at teenagers as it is now. I used to buy a lot of albums off the back of reading Kerrang! reviews, and a good deal of them I still enjoy listening to. 2003 was a good year for music and I can still remember a lot of the albums I bought from bands like Million Dead, Oceansize, Blood Brothers, Lomax and The Mars Volta. All rad bands. One of the biggest albums for me at that time was The Bronx's eponymous debut album.

I'd never heard before such a unhinged sound as I did when I first played 'The Bronx'. What an album. I read the stories of the drugs overdoses, murders and general dark things that surrounded the album's creation and believed them. It all sounded too cool. The Bronx also looked pretty tough characters too, it all added to the experience. The album is incredibly messy, recorded live in one of the dudes from Guns 'n Roses garage and most of the songs are first takes. It leaps out of your speakers. It's punk rock the way it should be; dark, aggressive and way too fast.

Six years on and I'm pleased to say that The Bronx are still alive and doing their thing. They've done a couple of cool albums since 2003 and I've seen them play twice. Recently they've taken to dressing up in Mariachi costumes and playing trad Mexican music. No big deal.

I've been researching Mariachi music for the benefit of you, the reader. It originated in the late 19th century in western Mexico where it served to provide romantic vibes to wedding ceremonies ('Mariachi is French for marriage). Mariachi's distinctive sound (and look) is a result of the use of a 'guitarron' (basically a massive guitar) and latin rhythms. Since those early days it had spread across the border into the U.S and is often heard bars in California and Texas, the latter from which The Bronx call home.

'Mariachi is every bit as much of a soundtrack to southern California as punk' notes singer Matt Caughthran on why the band turned their energies so easily to mariachi music. It turns out the band originally came up with the idea when asked to perform acoustically on a radio show. Knowing their music would never work in this form they decided to do something different and a couple of years later we have an album! I'm not going to go into much about the songs. What I will say is that they are very faithful to the Mariachi sound and recreate it perfectly. The production and musicianship is superb. They've clearly done their Mariachi homework (is that a good bandname?!) and sound like they're having a lot of fun.

'Mariachi El Bronx' is out on September 1st.

Here's 'Sleepwalker', one of my favourites:

And czech this out!