In the grand list of unlikely combinations, hardcore punk rock and mariachi music has got to be somewhere pretty high up on the list. However, the members of LA's Mariachi El Bronx have succeeded in brilliantly and fluidly moving from one musical genre to an alter ego specializing in the other. They've taken a risk with a genre totally divergent from their original sound and the results have turned out to be just as big and impressive as anything they’ve done before. The band has bravely pushed their own musical limits, firmly cementing the notion that they possess a certain amount of conviction, if not a defiant "we don't give a fuck what you think" attitude. Either way commands a fair bit of respect.

Formed in 2002 in Los Angeles, The Bronx's sound is clearly influenced by infamous West Coast punk rock forefathers such as Black Flag and early tour-mates the Circle Jerks. Their live show is appropriately loud, fast, and raw, and they've formed a loyal fan base around that sound. However, in 2006 after arriving at a television studio for a performance where at the last minute it was requested they do an unplugged appearance, instead of turning the amps off, they decided to don sombreros and perform a mariachi version of their song.  It was a turning point. They practiced hard, studying You Tube tutorial videos on various mariachi styles, and Mariachi El Bronx became a full-fledged alter ego, complete with intricately embroidered charro suits.

Mariachi El Bronx (ii), named in the same eponymous manner as the Bronx albums, is the follow up to their first record, which is unsurprisingly entitled Mariachi El Bronx. For those who have never experienced the Bronx in their latest guise, the most likely surprise you'll get is front man Matt Caughthran's voice.  We all knew he could do the shouty hardcore thing, but hey, he can sing, too!  On tracks such as 'Revolution Girl', 'Matador', and 'Everything Dies' he positively croons, his voice full of heartfelt emotion. Opener '48 Roses' shines as he laments his “4 different lovers” and subsequent need of a “confessional that never closes”, while he is backed by a band who show off their mariachi chops without hesitation. It has become apparent that the mariachi thing is no novelty shtick. As on MEB's first album, the twangy, plucky guitars, warm string parts, big, brassy trumpets, lively percussion and lyrics about unrequited love abound, but this time they’ve stepped it up a level. Instruments are played with more polish and gusto, and the songs have decidedly more complex, involved and advanced arrangements. The album’s biggest flaw might be that the tracks tend to feel a little bit samey at times, a point that might be more noticeable by people not inherently familiar with mariachi music. Saying that, production wise, throughout the album John Avila's work leaves little to be desired, bringing out a clarity, balance and warmth in the music which enhances and makes the record effectively and pleasantly cohesive as a whole.

The album is a respectfully crafted, well-formed homage to mariachi music, which will hopefully continue the group’s endeavours to open up a whole new crowd of ears (especially on their upcoming arena tour of the U.S. supporting the Foo Fighters) to the relatively little-known genre of traditional music from Mexico.