The Bronx have always been a no-bullshit kind of band, so it should come as no surprise that their second album is named the same as their first: The Bronx. Like Peter Gabriel, post-Genesis, this LA foursome has done away with the formality of picking a creative title for their second album, merely relying on their own name to do the job. Yet that’s where the similarities between The Bronx and Gabriel end. No art-rock posturing here; The Bronx have one simple mission—to pound out some skull-rattling rock, and on this sophomore set, they have accomplished such a direct feat.
Part two of The Bronx’s saga comes with production work from 1990s super-producer Michael Beinhorn, yet remains almost as raw as their self-titled debut, which was released on their own White Drugs imprint. Where that album was tightly pressurized with inflammatory rockers such as the adrenaline rush of “Heart Attack American” and the shout-along single “False Alarm,” this album follows closely, yet expands the parameters of their blueprint for blood-curdling howls and jugular slashing guitar riffs. All 52 seconds of “Small Stone” distills that jagged sound into their heaviest noise yet, hitting the killswitch before its violence turns fatal. And first single “History’s Stranglers” trudges along with a shuffling stomp, climaxing in Matt Caughthran’s scream of “motherfucker/I want your blood!”
The obvious choice for first single, if it weren’t for the profane title, would have been “Shitty Future,” a celebration of bleak future visions with plenty of thunderous rock behind it. “Dirty Leaves” and “Around the Horn” don’t opt for quite as pummeling an approach, attempting a more melodic approach, which recalls the Pogues in the former and Queens of the Stone Age in the latter. Then comes “Safe Passage,” a swaggering glam-rocker that’s as much Gary Glitter as it is Blood Brothers, yet proves to be a highlight for its dynamic melodicism and sludgy low-end. The closing anthem “White Guilt” is the big show-closer here, all group singalongs and classic rock riffs, which should prove to be a fun addition to the live show.
Those fearing a lighter, softer Bronx should rest easy. Cranking this one to eleven should cause just enough cranial reverberations as their previous rock monster, yet this time around, there are a few melodic earworms added for diversity’s sake. And if it’s a little more radio-ready this time around, that only means they’re getting better at crafting an all-around great rock `n’ roll record.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.