Album Review: The Bronx – Bronx VI

9/10

The Bronx VI artwork

There is a scene in Con Air – no, wait! – in which odious DEA agent Malloy talks about the feeling his vintage 1967 Chevrolet Convertible Roadster gives him: ‘Sunsets are beautiful. Newborn babies are beautiful. This…is fucking spectacular!’ The soon to be destroyed jalopy’s personalized registration number? Why, AZZ KIKR, of course.

If that number plate were a band, they’d be The Bronx, the LA based quintet who’ve spent the last nearly 20 years doing just that, occasionally pausing for breath when performing as their alter ego, Mariachi El Bronx, but for the most part they’ve been being the best straight up punk rock band in the world.

No, really.

Each one of their records has been incrementally adjusted by one, so for all those of you doing the quiz, this is their sixth outing in noise mode. Sandpaper throated warbler Matt Caughthran and his compadres may have rested up in lockdown – he’s even recently been trying his hand as a podcast host – but the sheer energy being generated here is a joy to behold given how constrained all our lives have been.

Opener White Shadow is like having a pair of electrodes attached to wherever you want on your body, vocals roaring, guitars so sharp they should be classed as surgical instruments.

Anything less than another level is for suckers; the direct byproduct of Caughthran now sharing out songwriting duties with other band members Brad (bass), Ken (guitar) and Joby (guitar) means, according to him, that they’re ‘just scratching the surface” of what’s possible. Your gut and tinnitus let you know that’s true.

VI is the ultimate in no-frills ultra-thrills; everything is broken, battered and as perfect as a punch in the eye. Curb Feelers, for example, is a wily celebration of being a disgracefully ageing punk rocker: ‘Every day starts off the same, I wake up looking for my brain. It’s not at the beach, it’s not in my bed. The panic sets in that I might be dead’.

Or you want something organic? The inspiration for Superbloom was unashamedly an afternoon tripping in the desert, communing with a nature that turned the sunshine and wildflowers into weapons against mediocrity and, in the process, giving some form to being anti just ploughing through shit until you simply lie in bed at night waiting to check out.

There are also outliers that give everyone a break they probably didn’t want but maybe need; on Peace Pipe the quintet morph into chirpy hard rockers, whilst closer Participation Trophy is grungy psychedelia, a groove cut from Led Zep licks and riffage a la Queens Of The Stone Age (former Queen Joey Castillo joined in 2018). At this point it feels like they could do pretty much anything that involves a guitar and an amp at 11.

What they do best though is encapsulated in the most white-knuckle rides available here; Breaking News mirrors the classic speed driven hardcore of Social Distortion or Agnostic Front, a fuck the government anthem which will have cops everywhere in full voice.

The ace moment though is High Five, on which giving a finger to someone has never, ever, sounded so good: ‘High Five/Yeah Right/I wouldn’t talk to you if I could choose to die’,Caughthran sings, on a song which is very much worth making a new worst enemy for.

You wouldn’t name a record AZZ KIKR unless you knew it surely could, but The Bronx went with VI instead just to go easy on you.

Just take our advice, listen to the world’s finest punk rock band and take your lumps; this is fucking spectacular.

Andy Peterson
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