The third full-length album from Mariachi El Bronx, 2014's Mariachi El Bronx (III), showcases more of the group's punchy, lyrical take on the mariachi sound. Three albums in, this punk-turned-traditional Mexican folk music outfit have proven themselves to be much more than a cute gimmick. Although mariachi purists could probably find something to quibble with, generally speaking Mariachi El Bronx make unapologetically traditional-sounding mariachi music. However, compared to the group's rootsy 2011 sophomore album Mariachi El Bronx (II), Mariachi El Bronx (III) is the group's most experimental work to date, featuring more pop/rock-oriented melodies and a healthy dose of synthesizers and other electronic flourishes. The result is an innovative album of immediately hummable, rhythmically infectious songs that manage to remain faithful to the mariachi tradition while also pushing the limits of what is stylistically possible within those traditions. Some cuts, including the laid-back "New Beat" and the anthemic "Raise the Dead," are more reverent, while the buoyant "Sticks and Stones" starts out with fuzzy, NIN-influenced white noise, only to dive headlong into a breezy mariachi lullaby anchored by the refrain, "Echo all your faith in God, son." Elsewhere, cuts like "High Tide" and "Everything Twice" like sound something along the lines of Vampire Weekend after a vacation in Mexico, and "Eternal" brings to mind Ocean Rain-era Echo and the Bunnymen. These are highly emotive, melodic songs replete with bright brass lines, plenty of strummed acoustic guitar and even some grand orchestral embellishments. Ultimately, what is so great about this release is how well Mariachi El Bronx balance their love of traditional mariachi music with their desire to write utterly catchy, contemporary pop songs.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar