In 2007, LA-based outfit The Bronx decided to spice things up with their hardcore punk/rock aesthetics, and branched out with an alter-ego of sorts, Mariachi El Bronx. Dressed in black charro apparel for live performances, and relying on acoustic guitars and a vibrant horn section, Mariachi released their self-titled debut album to some acclaim, and will likely continue that reception with their second release, the similarly-titled Mariachi El Bronx (II).
As a band, Mariachi El Bronx could not be more different from The Bronx; so, those expecting a dash of punk should look elsewhere. Sure, some tracks roll a bit faster, but this isn’t NOFX Redux. Mariachi El Bronx feels authentic, and El Bronx (II) is skillfully performed, and comprises a surprisingly emotional journey. Singer Matt Caughthran flexes his pipes here, showing a gentle side little seen on The Bronx’s albums.
Though to some people mariachi music might all sound the same, there is a load of variety on El Bronx (II). The album starts off with the dynamic, and theatrical “48 Roses”, which combines all the typical touches of mariachi music: rhythm, speed, and a wall of horns, and strings. There’s the catchy “Revolution Girls”, and its booty-shaking swings, and twirls. “Map of the World” is a beautifully sung heartfelt serenade, as is the touching “Bodies of Christ”. The soaring, waltzing “Poverty’s King” combines reflective lyrics (“she said everybody wants to be alone…until they are alone”) with an overall hush of melancholy. “Everything Dies” is dramatic, but not as depressing as you would think, especially near the end of the song when the pace picks up, melding the heavy subject matter with an almost joyous feel.
As with most of the band’s music, El Bronx (II) has that sunny quality that makes you want to shoot tequila and dance, but with the ballads interspersed through the album, and the poignant lyrics, there is a layer of depth here. It digs a little deeper at the lofty topic of love, creating an intense album with rhythm, heart, and plenty of horns.