III - Mariachi El Bronx
It's hard to get one band to diss another. It's like some unwritten code of ethics between musicians. Nevertheless, you get the sense that amongst academic players like jazzers and even traditional global artists, punk rockers are regarded as the remedial class of the music world, which is total classism bullshit. Guys like Shane MacGowan, Paul Westerberg and Bob Mould are among the greatest songwriters of our time, punk or otherwise. Add The Bronx to that list, or at least their south of the border alter-egos Mariachi El Bronx. Started as a side project in 2007, the mariachi version of The Bronx was already perceived as much more than a novelty act by the time they released their second album or 'II'. The spirited Revolution Girls was a total ear-opener, propelled by not only bombasitic horns but authentic, full-on Mexican strings. Mariachi El Bronx III gels the experiment into cross-border perfection, motivated no doubt by guitarist Joby J. Ford who contributes to every aspect of the mariachi experience from vihuela, guitar, bajo sexto, accordion, jarana to recording engineer. But, the songwriting is what shines like the silver buttons and buckles on their black charro suits. A track like 'Wildfires' displays the calibre of songsmithery El Bronx are capable of. Over a lyrical bed of mariachi horns and strings, the band sings a narrative about love wrapped in a metaphor so localized and relevent as the blazing wildfires that engulfed Southern California this past summer and fall. It's as friggin' brilliant as anything Pharrell has or will pen in his career. Plus, it has real cajones, something that pop castrated long a go. 'High Tide' and 'Everything Twice' are similar standouts. There will be those who will fold their arms over their puffed-up chests and challenge, "Ya, I get it. Mexican. But, what else can you pull out of your sombreros?" That's the kind of anticipation even the best of bands can only wish for.