One day The Bronx will put a foot wrong. They will release a duff album, phone in a show, put out some horribly misguided merchandise or do a Gene Simmons in an interview. Logically, statistically, realistically it has to happen, but not yet. Continuing their evolution into more layered, structured waters, ‘V’ is the band’s least immediate release so far, but as a result, also potentially their most rewarding, and given time to reveal itself, a masterclass in how to throttle, tease, seduce and please at the same time. Pre-release singles ‘Sore Throat’ and ‘Two Birds’ are well chosen to represent the whole, the former joining opener ‘Night Drop at the Glue Factory’ in a full-on balls-out return to the raw hardcore of 2003’s peerless debut, while the latter builds on the garage indie vibes that crept into 2013’s ‘Bronx IV’, with the rest of the album left to explore every shade of punk in between. Using more effects pedals than before and the considerable talents of new/old drummer David Hidalgo Jr, the band get their inner Stooge on with ‘Stranger Danger’; go full new wave Blondie with ‘Kingsize’; and even hint at a kind of punk prog with ‘Past Away’, which hops and slips out of reach like a frog in a sauna. Vocalist Matt Caughthran continues to challenge Keith Buckley for the title of Coolest Man in Punk, while Joby Ford’s guitar work turns everything into an instant party smasher, but as always, the arrival of a new Bronx album is bittersweet. On the one hand, an end of year Top 5 is guaranteed, but after 15 years of being consistently better than everyone else and woefully underappreciated in equal measure, it hurts to realise that this imbalance is unlikely to change. To those in the know, the mystery of why The Bronx are not bigger than Beyonce is the 8th wonder of the world, and perhaps ‘V’ is good enough to change that. Perhaps it is 2017’s ‘Nevermind’. Perhaps the band couldn’t give a shit either way, but if the stars are finally ready to align, brace yourself, because it doesn’t get better than this.