As Bad Religion eases into an elder-statesman role within the melodic hardcore world, there are still plenty of bands carrying off that scene’s messages of discontent with a youthful pugilistic fury. The Bronx made that clear when teaming with Bad Religion Thursday at the House of Blues. Bad Religion is still putting out music that matters, with the fierce tunes plucked from its latest album, “True North,” sounding as inspired as anything else culled for the show from the band’s 33-year career. But in terms of delivery, even singer Greg Graffin noted that his days of being in the mosh pit or scampering up speaker cabinets are far behind.
Bad Religion used musicality to patch over physicality, with guitarists Brian Baker and Greg Hetson crafting the subtle ebbs and flows that give this brand of punk rock its dynamic tension. The band still bashed through the old “We’re Only Gonna Die” without losing any of its youthful bile, yet has matured with countless richer commentaries on the ways culture and politics seed inequality.
Like Bad Religion, the Bronx has a deceivingly broad musical palette by punk standards (this is a band that made two mariachi records before getting back to the rock this year). A country lope threaded through “White Guilt,” and sleazy garage-rock boogie infused “Youth Wasted.” Singer Matt Caughthran conjured a sinister edge to his work, so where Bad Religion came across as your wise uncle, the Bronx sounded more like the crazy cousin, the one that may get you locked up by night's end.
Toward the end of the Bronx’s 45-minute set, Caughthran was out in the crowd running the circle pit and crowd-surfing atop bodies, all the while staying on point about the grime in life. More than 20 years separate the respective arrivals of Bad Religion and the Bronx, and together they made a case for the endurance of melodic hardcore.
Playing with a more coiled brand of post-hardcore, Polar Bear Club opened the show with an energetic burst of songs about facing adversity with optimism.Scott McLennan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMcLennan1