Formed in 2002, the Bronx hails not from the New York borough but from Los Angeles. These crafty bastards are Matt Caughthran (vocals), Joby J. Ford (guitar), James Tweedy (bass), Jorma Vik (drums) and latecomer Ken Horne (ex-Dragons) on second guitar; Caughthran and Ford are the main songwriters, responsible for, respectively, lyrics and music. The Bronx takes its influences from a wide variety of sources, from ’80s hardcore back to such ’70s punk pioneers as the Saints and the Victims. They’ve tossed it all into a custom rock and roll blender with more riffage than the human ear should be able to handle and set it to “crush.”
The Bronx played just a dozen shows before signing to a major label, which at first put its records out on the band’s own White Drugs imprint. The Bronx (2003), produced by onetime Guns n’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke, is a raucous debut, one that deftly documents the sadness of modern life in a decaying urban environment. From the blistering “Heart Attack American,” The Bronx shakes the living shit out of listeners for 31 minutes and 30 seconds. Fun but ultimately meaningless fact number one: The Bronx was brought out on its first tour by Rocket From the Crypt in April of 2003 and was on the bill at that band’s final show, Halloween 2005, in San Diego.
The 2006 The Bronx (the Bronx allegedly plans to use that title for all of its albums) was produced by Michael Beinhorn (Soundgarden’s Superunknown, Korn’s Untouchables and Hole’s Celebrity Skin). His innovative Ultra Analog Recording format (tape! what a concept!) adds even more rumble to the band’s already beefy sound. This Bronx makes the debut, a hardcore masterwork in its own right, sound almost one-dimensional, thanks to a huge improvement in songwriting skill. While the emphasis here is on the “rock” part of the “punk rock” equation, there are still plenty of songs on this disc to destroy one’s hearing, most notably “Shitty Future,” “White Guilt” (a cutting ’70s Anglo-styled lament about an unnamed “LA lady”) and the incendiary “History’s Stranglers,” in which Caughthran screams, “You motherfucker, I want your blood” and sounds like he means business. From the deceptively silly cover art (a swami peering into a crystal ball filled with ominous grey smoke) to the audible throat-clearing before Caughthran begins singing “Oceans of Class,” The Bronx kills everything in its path (even puppies).
Other Bronx releases of note include a DVD entitled Live at the Annandale, recorded in Sydney, Australia, and the band’s Social Club limited-edition series of self-released 7-inches, which includes experimental songs, and covers of Warren Zevon and Charlie Manson tunes with the aid of friends like Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks.
The Drips, which has described itself as being “made up of extremely talented magicians,” came into being shortly before the Bronx did and includes Caughthran and Ford, Tony Bevilaqua from the Distillers and a rhythm section whose father is David Hidalgo of Los Lobos. Though it doesn’t sound unlike the Bronx, the band’s belatedly release debut album is simpler and more melodic.