While a one-off mariachi album by a Los Angeles hardcore-punk band might invoke a certain kneejerk novelty vibe, what to make of a second Mariachi album by that very same Los Angeles hardcore-punk band? In the case of Mariachi El Bronx (the, you guessed it, Mariachi alter ego of Cali punks, the Bronx), it’s a sincere tribute to a genre that first sprang up in Western Mexico, and that these gringos say is “every bit as much of a soundtrack to southern California as punk.”
Mariachi El Bronx dabbles in Norteño, Bolero and Cumbia styles here, and recruits excellent players to get them across, pointing to a deep appreciation for the music, even if it’s their gimmicky back story that earns them a spot playing it for Jay Leno on national television — something that most traditional Mariachi bands never get a chance to do.
But if you can get past the cultural appropriation, it’s worth noting that what these guys are doing certainly feels authentic, appears to come from a place of real respect and has earned the co-sign of members and collaborators of Los Lobos, Circle Jerks, Oingo Boingo, Mad Caddies and the Beastie Boys. From epic horns and ominous themes (“48 Roses”), to romantic odes (“Fallen”) to positive party jams (“Mariachi El Bronx”), it’s clear they’ve done their homework. And if, at the end of the day, Mariachi El Bronx unites a few denizens of disparate genres for a common cause while convincing a few casual listeners to embark upon a bit of self-edification, well, they’re doing the good work.