December 12, 2009

albums of the decade (III)

I can't stop posting! However, when you consider the stack of cds sitting in front of me right now, it soon becomes apparent that I've got my work cut out for me.

Constantines - Shine a Light (Three Gut Records, 2003)

The Constantines had a great decade. In fact, they’ve just celebrated their tenth year as a band and are still playing some of the most electrifying live shows in the country. They’ve got four solid albums of blue-collar rock n’ roll and, although they recently made a shift a new label (Arts and Crafts), the band shows no signs of slowing down. This band has staying power. Shine a Light is not only their heaviest album (this one’s debatable); it’s also their best (this one, not so much). This follow up to their self-titled debut stays true to the urgency of their punk roots, but Shine a Light has the honesty of a band well into its career, easily moving between diverse sounds and moods. There’s something unsettling about an album this angry and impassioned, yet so carefully refined and channelled into songs like the blistering title track. Then there’s that sprawling anthem, “Nighttime/Anytime (It’s Alright),” that harrowing “Insectivora,” in which Bryan Webb tells us in great detail how he’s “learning to survive.” Sure Webb can howl, but he’s really a tender soul. Take “Young Lions” or “On to You” or “Poison,” for example. Webb flips from his unrestrained social realism to romantic lines like “make your love too wild for words” ("Young Lions") or “When we dance the night belongs to us” ("Poison"). We, the adolescent hipsters of 2003, instantly melt.

I came to know this album when I was in my first year of university. A friend of mine gave me her cd; she didn’t really care for it, and I was obsessed with “Poison.” Like many, I was also intrigued by the band’s name, as my course in Christian history made a pretty big deal about Constantine. I always imagined they were sort of being ironic, but as I found out in an interview last year the band name has nothing at all to do with the historical figure who single-handedly made Christianity synonymous with the Western empire. Whether or not these guys will admit it, I still like to think the name has some theological significance.

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