Album Review: Mariachi El Bronx – III

For those that already know; it’s a new Mariachi El Bronx album, enjoy. For those who don’t – Californians The Bronx are a fantastic punk rock band, who lead a double life as a competent mariachi band, mariachi being a type of Mexican folk music, with strummed acoustic guitars and a horn section; like ska-punk but without the white dudes with dreadlocks. This is their third record as can be deduced from the title and what started as a jokey side-project is now 7 years down the line – should we start to take MEB as seriously as their day job? On the basis of this album, not yet.

As alluded to in the first sentence, those who have already heard Mariachi El Bronx know what they’re in for; swoon-worthy vocals from Matt Caughthran and punchier songs intertwined with lovelorn balladry. However, all is not what it seems here, as some electronica has impinged on MEB’s territory; it’s an experiment to keep the material fresh three albums in, but the soundclash between more modern sounds on traditional musical stylings make for awkward bedfellows. Take opener ‘New Beat’ for instance; this shows MEB at their soaring best, but a squelchy synth breakdown towards the end feels out of place and unnecessarily tacked on; the same goes for the echo effect in ‘Sticks And Stones’ – ostensibly it’s to add an ambience and atmosphere to the song, but in practice it feels unnatural and redundant.

Much like on the last couple of “real” Bronx records, when MEB get it right, they nail it, such as on the emphatic ‘High Tide’, the dramatic shuffle of ‘Raise The Dead’ or on penultimate track ‘Right Between The Eyes’, where they go for glory and reach Morricone-esque levels of grandeur. However, similarly to the last two MEB/Bronx albums, this feels one or two tracks too long, the meandering ‘Eternal’ in particular seeming better left on the cutting room floor. ‘III’ can keep one entertained in parts but drags too much to be the main focal point; it pains me to use the term “dinner party music” when The Bronx have created some of the most vital punk rock the 21st century has seen, but you can just see this on the stereo at a burrito joint in amongst parping covers of Radiohead and Nirvana, the diners none the wiser to its source of origin.

It’s quite fitting that, following this record’s release, Mariachi El Bronx head out on tour with “gypsy-punk” outfit Gogol Bordello, whom you may remember shouted at you a few years ago to start wearing purple. Both bands leave an impression, but it’s a temporary, throwaway one – there’s no doubt both acts will release further albums because everyone loves a gimmick, but neither will remain long in the conscious. Though it has its moments and will be of benefit to your existing collection if already a fan of MEB, there are too many misses on this album to warrant ‘III’ being yet another continuation of this charming yet ultimately quite lame pastiche.


‘III’ by Mariachi El Bronx is out now on ATO Records.

Mariachi El Bronx links: Website|Facebook|Twitter

Words by Ollie Connors (@olliexcore)


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