“Looking For Constants in a Teeny Bopper World”
The Constantines – Shine a Light
Sub Pop Records (2003)
By Graham Isaac
I need to learn to either review my records faster or avoid all press regarding the band I’m about to take on; by now I know that I – and therefore you, the music-press-reading public – have probably already heard the Constantines described as “Fugazi fronted by Bruce Springsteen.” That is, most likely, the best band-combination description of them you’ll hear. But let me try a few others on for you: a more angular version of latter day Murder City Devils…the serious side of Tom Waits fronting a post-punk band…Slayer covering Jurassic Five with the Muppets sitting in providing quacking sounds and orgasms.
Sub Pop also saw fit to wax poetic on their press release (fuck record label PR people– seriously) practically comparing The Constantines to Jesus Christ. Note: if you want me to like your band, don’t compare them to religious leaders whose teachings have lasted over two millennia, jackasses.
Nonetheless, I have to give the band credit for overcoming the faults of their marketing team and delivering a record I’m going to be hard pressed to not fall into the same traps over as I write. My first listen had me intrigued, my second had me less impressed than many seemed to be, during my third I think I was eating pizza and concentrating mainly on picking off all the gross olives, but subsequent listens to the album have only increased my estimation.
So let’s get one thing clear: This album rocks, but in a severely different way than, say, the band Jet (or any of the acclaimed “reclaiming rock” bands). This is not a “hey, let’s forget everything and play air guitar and party” record. This album rocks with ferocity and purpose, pulls back for a subdued breather, lets you think for a second, and then attacks again.
There are many good post-punk air-guitar moments, but underneath it all Whil Kidman’s keyboards hint at roots that go back to folk and Americana music, giving the songs a depth untouched by most bands.
Highlights of the set include “Nighttime/Anytime It’s Alright” (which some fucker called a “metrosexual anthem” . . . don’t get me started on either of those words,) “Young Lions,” which probably has the most buoyant melody, and the acoustic closer “Sub-Domestic,” in which the band yields fully to the Springsteen vibe.
While many bands are opting for a quick fix– “hey, look at us, we like AC/DC! You like AC/DC too, you should like us!” The Constantines are going a tougher route, one that ultimately results not only in a more original sound, but offers songs with true staying power. Now if we could just get them some decent publicists… – (9/10)