Back in December 2013, I saw The Bronx in Wolverhampton. The Slade Rooms didn’t know what hit it, frankly. Reviewing this album, I looked back at what I’d written eight years ago, and the usual suspects appeared: Connection, energy. There’s something else too. There’s Matt Caughthran and his way with words.
He’d marched out on stage that night and said: “We got horse in our food. We got double amputees shooting their girlfriends, it’s not safe to be out there, ladies and gentleman. This is our fallout shelter.” References to what was going in pies and Oscar Pistorius might lack the current affairs gravitas these days, but the boy still got it.
To wit: There’s a track on “The Bronx VI” called “Jack Of All Trades” and this is its first verse.
“one skill ain’t enough in this world
what you need is a jack of all trades
or somebody who can meet your mother
or dump her body in the everglades”
The Bronx, baby. They’re back. And this is our escape.
Two decades of doing punk rock the way they want to (how many punk bands do you know with a mariachi side band?!) and there’s nothing to suggest their powers are diminishing here.
“White Shadow” is essentially what they do. More than an opener it’s a window into their world. Not quite hard rock, not quite punk, with an arena shaking lead break from Joby J. Ford, and words that are totally their own.
“Superbloom” will sound ace on the shows they are doing with ETID (and sounds a bit like Keith Buckley’s mob) but the glorious thing about the band has remained intact. Hooks, Massive huge hooks that you simply have to sing.
“Watering The Well” has them, but it also possesses a shining glam stomp, that sounds as sleazy as the Stones, and why? Well, because The Bronx feel like it.
“Curb Feelers” is a little heavier, sounding not dissimilar to The Damned Things, in truth, the mid-paced “Peace Pipe” has a kind of Offspring approach to getting stuff done, and a massive “Whoah, Whoah” chant that you can’t resist.
Most of the band have been together for 15 years or more and there’s a chemistry, “High Five” is one of many that benefits from it, that said, it also has this as a chorus: “I wouldn’t talk to you if I could choose to die” so they’ve won, whatever I say, frankly.
Caughthran has sung with bands like Biffy Clyro in the past, and “Mexican Summer” borrows from that choppy alt-rock gene pool, a fact that “New Lows” recognises by following it with a gallop while “Breaking News” is the most pure and nasty punk on offer.
As “Participation Trophy” ends things with a much slower, deliberate pace, as if to emphasise that this album could have gone off down any route it chose, then there’s a thought that you sometimes forget how good this band is.
Only their sixth album as The Bronx in 19 years, perhaps doesn’t help, but maybe its all our faults too. That is to say, we all look for the next big thing and maybe forget who the real Guvnors are. The Bronx have never put out anything that isn’t brilliant, that’s kind of a given, but “VI” just underlines that nicely.