Album Review of Mariachi El Bronx (III) by Mariachi El Bronx.
Release Date: Nov 4, 2014
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Latin, Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Latin Pop
The third full-length album from Mariachi El Bronx, 2014's Mariachi El Bronx (III), showcases more of the group's punchy, lyrical take on the mariachi sound. Three albums in, this punk-turned-traditional Mexican folk music outfit have proven themselves to be much more than a cute gimmick. Although mariachi purists could probably find something to quibble with, generally speaking Mariachi El Bronx make unapologetically traditional-sounding mariachi music.
It is not uncommon for bands to indulge in a little side project fun every now and again in order to explore new pastures or just blow off steam. However, it is quite unusual for those projects to take on a life of their own and reach a point where they almost dwarf the achievements of the original band. Mariachi El Bronx isn’t quite at that point just yet, but it isn’t too far away.
The Bronx quite possibly have the biggest split personality in the music world right now. While their bread and butter is the blistering punk rock which it all started with, the more interesting side to them is definitely the Mariachi El Bronx alter ego. On album three, The Bronx are not just a punk band with a sideline in Mariachi music, but a genuine act in their own right, and the results are spectacular.
When word was received that members of the Bronx were going to incorporate synthesizers and electronics into their vehicle for indigenous Mexican music, eyebrows were skeptically arched. But III doesn’t awkwardly weld EDM/dubstep/techno tropes to the band’s south-of-the-border aesthetic. The synthetic elements are used as textural enhancements for great songs, like the sample-and-hold synth break in “New Beat,” the eerie guitar processing in the intro of “Sticks And Stones” and the positively glorious, near-shoegaze ambiance of “Eternal.
When an unlikely side project that began life as a situational impulse finds itself releasing a third full length LP in seven years, it’s probably time to sit back and take stock of what’s been going on. Since first donning the traditional black charro outfits for a televised performance as Californian hardcore five-piece The Bronx, Mariachi El Bronx - the group, with the addition of Keith Douglas, Ray Suen, and Vincent Hidalgo on Mexican guitarrón - have enjoyed critical praise for their work, with admiring voices in both the English and Spanish-speaking presses. Their technical proficiency has never been in doubt, but those who’ve followed the band could be forgiven for taking a look at the three eponymous records before them and asking what more Mariachi El Bronx can do to expand their audience’s musical horizons, and perhaps even their own.