The Constantines The Constantines

[Three Gut; 2001]

Styles: indie rock
Others: Oneida, Spoon, Tangiers, Guided by Voices, Broken Social Scene

The Constantines are an unidentified smoke emitting from the speakers. It's a familiar smoke to be sure -- these five Canadian boys regularly channel the fury of Fugazi and Bruce Springsteen with abandon -- but still, where did it come from? Only one thing is for sure, and it's that their brand of rock and roll, like smoke, brings the promise of honesty: behind it, there's a fire.

The Constantines left their mark on the underground rock world in 2003 with the release of Shine a Light, impressing legions of hipsters with one of the first rock records in years to induce dropped jaws instead of cringes. But Shine a Light was merely the band's self-titled release trapped in a burlap sack.

On this 2001 record, their first, the band plays exactly like every band should on their debut: like they have nothing to lose and everything to prove. And it's on this self-titled record that the Constantines bitterly exorcise the spirit of rock and roll without irony or fanfare. They pour their confusion and angst out on every track with oblique poetry and raw, buzzing instrumentation.

While the Strokes, Mooney Suzuki, and others issued debuts in 2001, showcasing a much-hyped "return to rock and roll," those records conjured the structure of rock music with no real purpose except to simply play rock music. The Constantines, on the other hand, treat rock and roll like an oracle. They see the music as a means to answering their questions, a way to make the pain and anxiety go away.

On every raw, beautiful song on The Constantines, a strange atonal buzz permeates the mix; from my side of the speaker, it sounds like the band recorded their open wounds directly onto the tape. On "Justice," for instance, the chorus simply sputters out of the verses like it wasn't even meant to occur. And on "Some Party," the handclaps don't sound joyous at all; they sound angry and desperate, two things no one has ever associated with handclaps. Even when lead singer Bry Webb sneers Rod Stewart lyrics on "Young Offenders," he sounds pitifully honest, like he's only mocking because that's his only way to show he cares.

The Constantines is audio emotion; it's an expression of a longing and a feeling, not a hook or a melody. If you listen to this album, you probably won't sing these songs in the shower or hum along with them in the car. You will instead scream these in your sleep and feel them hum inside your bones. And that's where their smoke comes from.

1. Arizona
2. The Long Distance Four
3. Some Party
4. Young Offenders
5. Justice
6. Seven A.M.
7. No Ecstasy
8. Hyacinth Blues
9. Saint You
10. The McKnight Life
11. Steal This Sound
12. To the Lullabies
13. Little Instruments