We live in unsettling, alien times. Thanks to global warming, unseasonable blizzards lash the capital; celebrity prank phonecalls bump the bombing of Syria off the front pages and Axl Rose finally stopped contemplating his own navel long enough to record an entire, actual album of actual songs and stuff. The need for simple escapism has arguably never been greater, so we welcome back LA’s The Bronx with open arms. Their third self-titled album in five years crunches into a musical landscape where giving a tune to a Pretorian cabbie can do as much to further your career as hiring a crack PR team and, grounded as it is in textbook garage-punk riffery, strives to capture the blood’n’whisky carnage of their 2003 debut.
“Desperation is our inspiration” gargles Matt Caughthran, perfectly encapsulating the paradox at the heart of The Bronx. They’re LA through and through, but they’re not the hipsters clogging up the Strip – imagine Caughthran with a poodle perm! – nor are they the homeless gutter rats (their first two albums were released on majors) the city was once famous for. Opener ‘Knifeman’ is as jagged as a serrated blade, a phalanx of thick, meaty Rocket From The Crypt guitars and ploughing, stiff-armed drums. ‘Minutes In Night’, too, is as gloriously punishing a racket made by guitar, bass, drums and a throat as can be imagined, thudding and pummelling like a heavyweight. And ‘Inveigh’ is just relentless, a bruising battery that creates something dirty and feral yet slitheringly seductive. TV On The Radio this ain’t – isn’t it brilliant?
“I am an addict, an animal/I am my father’s son” goes ‘Spanish Handshake’’s mantra, but it isn’t an apology. It’s a statement both of fact and of intent; hell, crank ‘Past Lives’ or ‘Ship High In Transit’ up and a billion clichés flood into your brain, primarily the desire to slam some booze down your throat and grab a perfect stranger before screaming all manner of obscenities in their face. This is what The Bronx do, so anyone who wants anything deeper will be left unsatisfied. Despite passing references to a changing industry led by demographics and marketing, there’s little attempt to coherently engage a world beyond the bottle – broken shards of stories and characters colourfully populate their songs but in terms of a thread, a concept? LA is a bit screwed up, let’s rock. Yet they’ve got the nous and the balls to pull this blunt assault off with verve.
It’s more a continuation of The Bronx than a reinvention, but so proficient are they at whipping up chaos on record (live, they’re more a barely controlled riot than a band) the fact it isn’t the coruscating blast of their debut doesn’t matter. It’s still a brilliantly sleazy punk rock’n’roll album that feels, sounds and smells just like you want The Bronx to be, and the fact it’s so pure and elemental works strongly in its favour. Play it loud; for 33 thrilling minutes it’ll make you feel like you can walk through walls.