FUNGALPUNK GIG REVIEWS
I discovered The Bronx in ’05, pirating them from a friend on my space. Who knew that after a series of events that I would consider a stroke of luck and serendipity, that my finger would end up on the pulse of The Bronx’s unusual cross-sections of hardcore and blues-rock. I was instantly hooked then, as I still remain a solid follower today. My whole connection with The Bronx’s music is really just one of those things. Inadvertently, after I purchased a second-hand demo for $3 bucks - I realized their CD had not yet been released to the public. Once discovering they were kicking off their ‘White Drugs’ tour, launching their new CD at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC, it then dawned on me that I had the unpublished ‘White Drugs,’ CD in my possession. I was stoked! This meant I was the only person in the audience that would know these songs the night of the show. It was like some great secret. Epic, I tell you—as I was the only one on the side of the stage, pogoing and shouting the lyrics at the top of my lungs - even making the anal bouncers nervous. That night, they annihilated the crowd, and stunning them with their bombastic guitar with Matt Caughthran on crutches, made the show even more awesome. I personally thought that it was a Kodak moment – to blow the crowd away as their unique sound went over their heads.Flash-forward to three years later. I had moved out of town, but made a special trip back to Richmond, VA to see The Bronx play on my 44th birthday.
Here’s the recap of a great birthday celebration and show despite the wanker tour manager who prevented me from standing on the stage to take pics for the review. Further, it didn’t stop me from rockin’ out in fury on the side. With a decent crowd gathering, the lights switched to multi-color, and out walks Matt, the lead vocalist, wearing a black Run DMC t-shirt as Joby introes with a the beginning guitar chords as Jorma’s drum pops in, ‘Heart Attack American’. Matt’s blood-curdling scream opens the wound of onslaught driving chords under Matt’s scratchy shouts. Parenthesized by his growl, a guitar reprieve and drum-pedal bomps reel back into the 2nd verse, heading straight for the chorus, smeared with Matt’s scathing metered belting. The odd-noted M8 measure switches guitar octaves bouncing from drum pops ending with Ken’s weaves on guitar, and Matt screaming the closing, ‘…I’m Done!’ – and that was only the beginning…Joby’s slamming guitar-pounding rhythm in, ‘Kill My Friends,’ shows angst maturity with no thoughts of holding back. Choppy (odd-noted in flats) ricochets in stutter guitar aside to syncopated drums wrangled in the smashed cymbals. As each verse is met by drum pounds and bass melody, Matt’s jagged vocals are met on beat, parting the waters for the split M8: it’s a jam of cutting grooves and hooks that contracts and expands together with all the instruments. Matt attempts to keep the rock ‘n roll tied together; however, suddenly unravels with a long-cutted derailed growl at the end.On the 6th cymbal pounds on this next song, a heralding steady beat off of their new CD, ‘Past Lives,’ ques in Matt’s ragged-out crooned belts. Joby is pot-holing additional harmonies on the chorus carving out some depth just before the second verse. As the guitar chords pull back, the rock ‘n roll twiddlings slide underneath, as Matt spearheads the bridge along with the crash-cymbals. Fresh machine-gun drums crescendo to a slow-down on the steady pound. Ken’s guitar brakes only for the chorus as Matt bobbs to the beat. It’s all in a live dirgy fury of fueling hard strums that tilts rock ‘n roll to wedge within the border of hardcore as Matt spits out the remains in a non=sympathetic drawn-out yell.
The crowd was now geared up to my all time fave, ‘Shitty Future,’ as I ass-shaked on the bass twiddlings whose main role is to hold the beat. Matt wanders through the nucleus of the crowd even before the first guitar chords hit. Guitar chords hybrid a release of condensed syncopations—The Bronx’s signature—sandwiched in between. It’s the perfect mix of rock n roll with harmonies, and hardcore with heavy drum/cymbal punctuations, that feeds off on the chorus. The middle chorus repeats is in accapella inclusive of Matt’s yelps as a portion of encouraging crowd surfers dispense a hole wide enough to drop some floater-dude like a sack o shit, to the floor. (To him, it seems like a well-worth ‘ouch.’) There was no stopping as the drum and guitar burned through the catchy chorus. Comprising of hard-hitting beats and a split-second reprieve, Matt’s scratched vocals morph to hard core, hurling in at top speed for the ‘yeah!’ Lots of claps on this one.‘Knifeman,’ a new song, registers in lower energy beats. Mind you, it was the staccato wah-wahs of the guitar pedal that had my attention. It’s tricky, as Jorma’s drum beats run in a different metered rhythm of the verse until the very last beats to join that wah-wah sound on guitar. Brad’s bass shifts, helping to capture a thicker melody. As Joby’s lead riff off beats burn in syncopated pulls through the melody, the vocals are somewhat clearer, more melodic, belting the lyrics between riffs. Matt’s tone and placement on the chorus line is perhaps a subconscious spin-off of Ozzy Osbourne’s vocal style - but not all with plagiarism - but with a more burglarizing melody. Joby’s guitar and back ups hold the responsibility for the sudden song crash.
The crowd was getting into it as the live version of, ‘Rape Zombie,’ is depicted two-times faster and more intense track. Adding cymbal crashings on every other beat amazingly has this song emerging as the highlight of the entire set. Giant drum pounds plod before Matt’s more scratched vocals. As he approaches the stage on the second rounding chorus, he lets out a lyrical crusher with, ‘I’m taking off…yeah!’ winding up the energy for the kick towards the M8. It’s all Joby’s heavy-handed syncopated guitar, as Jorma’s off-beat drum-thuds launches Matt’s rumbling with increasing angst between the cold-blooded scream and beat that finally crests and it too spills at the, “…before I spill all over,’ to the end. Matt begins this next song with a little bit of commentary about the lone punker and to validate those who go against the grain. In this song, check out the lyrics because as part of the package, rock 'n' roll intros a long-noted pull before the chopped up beat. Interactive with the audience, Matt is eye-to-eye, emphasizing, ‘Why should I give a shit?!’ shoving one fist punch in the air. It’s a fiercer live version that is held together by one-last chord standing alone, although validated and left to crash.Another new steady beat opened, ‘Young Blood,’ and will def be a crowd favorite. A much lighter, less condensed stance opens the steady beats. The heavy syncopated exchanges rises and meet up with Matt’s crooning chorus. The beat is all the while shifting on the bridge, and it is actually Joby’s scratched guitar riff packed with the catchy chorus repeat that ends with Joby’s guitar feedback fuzzing into abandonment.
On, ‘Around The Horn,’ the 'Snakes on a Plane,' soundtrack has Jorma’s psycho-drum panging on expressively and much faster live. The single strummed rhythm guitar is underneath the heavy-cymbal crashes that are not noticeable on the CD version. Adding a jump start to the steady beat, it’s the blink-of-an-eye cymbal insert that adds a nice touch. Half time on the memorable line, ‘light as a feather, and we’re stiff as a board,’ leads to smooth harmony back ups that smoothly overlap with a surprise inserted guitar solo. The middle cracks a jam session collectively with hard cymbals and guitar twiddlings that keep the beat in tact. After Ken shows off his jam session, the groove-ending has Matt jumping up in the air on the last beat. You will have to pay attention to, ‘False Alarm,’ in order to catch that off-beated cymbal/drum circle-pitting jazz stint. It is as if it has its own beated agenda and meter. But it’s a cock up on who is leading as the chopped-up guitar strums leap into a guitar groove tailored for hardcore fans. Exhibiting a furrowed brow, Matt spits out the angsty chorus. Not hearing the bass til the M8, the best line delivers, ‘Give me audio, give me visual overload,’ then crashes with a slew of cymbals driving the rhythm chords to a stop on the third time around.
You could not have picked a better closing than, ‘History’s Stranglers.’ Powerful guitar chords capture the intent of wrath that has me convinced that The Bronx has a dark side. Matt is moving about in the center of the pit scowling in everyone’s face. It’s heavier than even on CD - as encompassing guitar successions and prevalent bass support the intense lyrics, ‘Motherfucker I want your blood!’ Matt’s vocal-cracking at the end of exhaustive verses mammoth the shingling rock 'n' roll guitar riff. Towards the end, the M8 laments a crescendo punctuating the last lines of the song as Matt bends backwards, squeezing the last gut-belt of vehemence to end the set. The Bronx’ intricate beats and guitar meters between each song melds a clever mix of blues, rock n roll and hardcore all packaged together making them the 2009 stand-out. [Note: I’d like to thank The Trigger System for their assistance with the show and interview, and for Matt Caughthran, who didn’t hesitate to taking a little of his time to let me do my thing.]
review by Jillian Abbene (20 November 2009)