There is something strange in Mariachi El Bronx (III). This album, the most recent installment from LA’s (usually hardcore punk) The Bronx mariachi side project, is purely West-Coast, and loyally Latin (think swift-toned marimbas in sweaty stoner beat). But it is also an album for a ghostly Wuthering Heights-era runaway bride (either Brontë or Bush- your choice, they recorded most of this music in the foggy hills of Charlottesville, VA). With the adage “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue…”, littering the escape route behind her, this album certainly succeeds with a soundtrack-like appeal: it is story to be listened to as a whole rather than parts.
Lyrically, this album wavers between staccato latin verse pattern and the lengthy dreamscape of its story-line. The opening track “New Beat” boasts pithy rhyme within a traditional sound-map, while the song “Eternal” attempts an ocean of depth by whispering distantly about “scientists” or “morphine”. While ultimately a cohesive attempt, this breadth of lyric is still somehow too safe, with all that careful synthesizer sort of mimicking emissions from a plastic bubble-pipe to shuttle each line into skillful, yet sometimes predictable finger picks.
Although sometimes lyrically flat, the modernity of their Mariachi interpretation is especially alive in the third track “Sticks and Stones” which opens in a low, gritty, synthetic growl familiar to fans of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, or The Felice Brothers’ 2011 album “Celebration Florida”, and continues into simple, acute choruses accompanied by the ascension of perfect horns. Its these moments we’ve all been waiting for, a swift and well-understood union of usually separate sounds which make for interesting music.
As the third installment of punk group The Bronx’s side project El Mariachi, I am still impressed with this group’s ability to shed the upbeat corniness familiar to Mariachi while maintaining an admirable amount traditional instrumental power (primarily thanks to guests such as harpist Willie Acuña, and a tight-as-fuck horn section). This album’s release is followed by an early December tour (opening for those maniacs, Golgo Bordello) through the U.K and Ireland, and despite this album’s occasionally too-cautious approach, it is undeniable that every one of these musicians knows how to play, and for that alone this album deserves top volume, your time, and both ears.