Have you heard the one about the punk band that doubles as a mariachi band? There’s no punchline to that question…it’s a true story. Mariachi El Bronx is the alter-ego of The Bronx who continue their homage to Mexico’s UNESCO-certified cultural music with their third album, Mariachi El Bronx (III), available now on White Drugs/ATO Records.
The album finds the group entering a comfort zone with this third outing. It was obvious they were still amateurs dabbling in new waters on their debut album, Mariachi El Bronx (I), while the sequel Mariachi El Bronx (I) showed more promise.
The band is on full non-appropriation, gringo mariachi mode to great effect on the album. Singer Matt Caughthran’s lyrics are more personal and less-kitschy though his voice has yet to hit the level of any classic singer (he’s a punk guy after all). It’s clear, however, that he understands his vocal strengths and limitations and works with/around both to great effect.
Songs such as “New Beat,” “Wildfires,” and “Nothing’s Changed” have a classic mariachi sound while “Right Between The Eyes” has a more classic Western music score vibe to it. The band also introduced some electronic elements into the album. “Eternal” features a few vocal SFX and some keys while “New Beat” adds a few weird (mostly unnecessary) sounds throughout.
“We were very careful to not make a mockery of it,” explained drummer Jorma Vik, “because I think that’s what people expected from us when they heard we were making a mariachi record. We wanted to make sure it came across as we meant it: as an homage.”
The basic story behind why a couple of white dudes started belting out boleros is pretty straightforward. “We were feeling burnt out and in a creative stall,” explained Caughthran, “so Joby [Ford] came up with the idea to just try playing mariachi music.”
“None of us ever thought in the beginning that it was going to be like a record or a band,” he admitted. “All these little signs along the way kept letting us know that we were doing the right thing. Songs were just oozing out of everybody.”
Purists, take note. These guys will never overtake Chente or Mariachi Sol De Mexico nor are they trying to, and you won’t see them taking any gigs away from the hard-working paisas hustling at Mariachi Plaza. They are simply a couple of dudes who understand it, respect it, and play their own version of it. And yes, it’s worth listening to.
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