What happens when a hard-core band decides to pick up traditional mariachi instruments and charro suits? The Bronx did just that in 2009, to the astonishment of fans and critics. Call it sweetly ruminative music with a bit of edge.
Mixing punk rock with mariachi music might sound like a quixotic mission.
Unless, that is, you've ever stumbled upon a troupe of Guadalajara horn players closing down a bar after one too many tequilas. Or you've heard Mariachi El Bronx.
Mariachi El Bronx, which is opening for the Foo Fighters on Thursday at the Forum, is the charro-suited alter ego of the Bronx, one of L.A.'s most formidable hard-core punk bands. Smashing into existence in 2002, the Bronx became known for its raw lyrics and apocalyptic instrumentals on such snarling anthems as "White Guilt" (about a coke-addled prostitute) and "False Alarm."
Then in 2009, to the astonishment and (mostly) approval of fans and critics, the band spun off a side project, Mariachi El Bronx, which is exactly what it sounds like: a mariachi band that performs both traditional and new tunes, in English, with horns, strings and outfits.
Some of the songs on the band's recently released second album, such as "48 Roses," combine the melodic pathos of Mexican regional music with the aggressive energy and self-lacerating wit of punk.
Lead singer Matt Caughthran, who normally sounds like he's about to smash a bottle over your head (or his), sounds on the lovely lament "Map of the World" like any confused lover howling at the Jalisco moon. And "Everything Dies" is as sweetly ruminative a bolero as any melancholy young poet might hope to pen.
All that makes sense for a group whose two biggest influences are Los Lobos and Black Flag, according to Joby J. Ford, who plays guitar in the punk band and the Mexican five-string vihuela and the accordion in the eight-member mariachi ensemble.