May 15, 2008

Kensington Heights-Constantines

Constantines make music to live life by. It is hard, uncompromising, substantial. Yet it is also tender and vulnerable. It is music to shout to, laugh to, cry to, salute to. Above all, it is human and true. "Kensington Heights", their latest and first on Arts and Crafts, continues the Toronto band's tradition of direct and succinct rock. While never breaking the bank of originality, they have made a enormous deposit into the bank of heart and soul.

One day I will have the pleasure of seeing this band live, for I believe that their greatest strength is their fierce desire to play with true power and real emotion. Also, although I have been a fan of all their recorded output, there are always a couple of flat spots on each record. I believe even those that appear on "Kensington Heights" would translate perfectly into the live arena. Having said that, the opening of this album contains no flat spots. The single, "Hard Feelings" welcomes us to the Constantines world. A world of pulsating guitars and driving drums and best of all, that voice. Bryan Webb's voice is earth grown and passionate to the extreme. It has a husky, smoky quality that delivers with extreme effect. Second track "Million Star Hotel" continues the theme of anthemic guitar and heartfelt vocals. When Bry sings "Where's my black water? Where's my loving cup?", you feel required to give him a proper answer. The opening is completed by the driving bass line that welcomes the darkly shaded "Trans Canada", a song to be reckoned with. If "Shower of Stones" is one of those afore mentioned flat spots, then it doesn't last long. For the next two songs represent the heart of this fiery beast. "Our Age" opens with a delicious guitar line before giving away to a glorious ode to lost youth. Thematically the Constantines always seems to touch on the subject of love and life, death and regret. Earnest themes, but ones that resonate strongly. There is even a song called "Life or Death" to exemplify this. If "Our Age" was great, then "Time Can Be Overcome" turns up the flame a further notch. A slow burning song, it features ringing guitar and stark drumming as Mr Webb assures that everything will be all right.

If the first half of "Kensington Heights" is nearly flawless, then the second half just wavers a little bit. Not to say it doesn't contain quality, but there is nothing quite as memorable as that which preceded it. "Brother Run Them Down" and "Credit River" are perhaps a little to simplistic to totally convince, but "New King" is truly beautiful. As close as this band is ever likely to get to a ballad, with its soft and delicate touches. Then "Do What You Can Do" closes things nicely as Bry murmurs "I wish you twelve lanes of peace and quiet" in that way that only he can. "Kensington Heights" has that innate ability to make you feel good about music. It's perfect to play loud, but still has the ability to sparkle if you choose to listen to it at night on headphones. It contains the fire and spark of life and for me that is more then enough.

Available for purchase from Arts and Crafts.
MP3: Hard Feelings-Constantines


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