Photo by James Bunoan THE BRONX
HOUSE OF BLUES, ANAHEIM
SUNDAY, JAN. 12
Always keeping up with the soon-to-be mega-hyped, we figured we had to check out the Bronx. They're catching major buzz, which could mean the group is brilliant or that their publicist, manager and/or the whole damn band are boning the correct people. Let's trace the evidence: several industry types (whose cards we keep in our Rolodex) began telling us about the Bronx a couple of months ago; one Bronx—we're not sure which—was an intern on the Go Loco show before it and the whole station went belly-up; the oft-repeated line is that "they were stalked by major labels after only two shows!"—a fact that impresses us not a crap; and the topper, a fawning scribble-up in the new "2003 Bands to Watch" issue of Rolling Stone (somebody in their camp had to have swallowed to get that one). But here's where they really lose what cred they have: their mail address is a suite on Hollywood Boulevard, and for a band that has been together just a few months, they already have their machine turning out seven different kinds of T-shirts—each available in four sizes, naturally—plus baseball caps.
So the hype is less than authentic. As for the music? Well, after winding through a Mouse House crowd made up mostly of people there to see headliners Social Distortion (and we'll just interrupt here to say that this was absolutely the most shameless horde we've ever seen at a Social D show, overloaded with adults with high-spiked hair who undoubtedly had to comb them clean and neat before they reported the next morning to their Newport Center office temp jobs. Add to this the slew of freshly purchased Hot Topic Dead Kennedys, China White and Clash T-shirts—the real reason Joe Strummer's heart gave out, we suspect; either that or divine retribution for whoring "London Calling" out to fucking Jaguar—and you had a whole sea o' ugly. Now, where were we?), we have to say that the Bronx didn't come close to their buzz.
The Bronx play a version of "punk," with all the appropriate loud touches, and pack a wallop that could be best described as At the Drive-In-esque. But where any true originality was concerned, they went a-laggin'. Here's the lowdown: the band came out, their pudgy singer boy dressed in a blazer he probably picked up at Chess King circa 1986. The band kicks in, and singer boy closes his eyes and starts slowly bop-bop-boppin' along—oooh, like he's in a trance! ("Oh, god!" screeched one young lass standing near us. "He's not 'feeling the music,' is he?"). After a few minutes, we realize we've heard their shtick many times before—and in vastly superior versions, most recently by the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs. But why are the Bronx getting the buzz the Cheetahs never had? Could it be that the Bronx seem to fit nicely into the "Return of Rock" marketing plans of some suit at Sony or Interscope or the one or two other major labels that are left? Could the Bronx be some exec's version of what "the kids" want to hear and see these days? (See singer boy stage-dive into the crowd and straddle the mic stand in a safe, PG-13 kinda way, and then curl up into a fetal position onstage and get wet as their guitarists spit water into the air! Laydeez and germz, the Bronx . . . soon to be bottled with a UPC symbol and stocked on a shelf near you!) Yeah, sure, whatever. Half the room cheered when they announced their last song—the half made up of older punks who, like us, couldn't be moved unless the room was on fire. Then singer boy finished things off with a handstand on top of the kick drum—they're "out of control," y'see—and it was all over, a half-hour of some of the most redundant, pedestrian pseudo-punk we've had the unfortunate displeasure of encountering. Means the asses'll probably make millions, too.
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Didn't stick around for Social D, but history has taught us that Mike Ness probably dropped some wisdom about the old days growing up in Fullerton; talked about how much he misses Dennis Danell; threw down some smack about Disneyland, maybe even told everybody (again!) about the time he got kicked out of the park for dressing too "punk"; and maybe played those two-year-old "new" songs (but they're very, very good songs) he wrote for the next Social D album, which should be coming out any year now. Any year now. Any year. Any.