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splendid > reviews > 8/15/2003
The Constantines
The Constantines
Shine A Light
Sub Pop


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Sub-Domestic"

Buy me now
Shine A Light is metallic, screamo-ing, ear-bursting, confused and chopping. And man, it's great.

Admirably more mature in both attitude and music than other guys their age, The Constantines project themselves forward with a lot of power. Smart enough to know that this power doesn't come from the squealing, crunching guitar, but rather from its selective use, they free themselves to construct hard noise-jams around the emotive husk that is lead singer Bryan Webb. Even when he's plaintive, Webb's voice sounds as if he enjoys a steady diet of cactus and absinthe. It's a funny sort of endearing -- a voice so fuzzy that it becomes a blanket of sorts, a warm, supportive rasp on a friendless day.

Musically, The Constantines are lively and inventive, assembling bass, guitar and keyboard elements in an energetic collaboration rather than playing follow-the-leader with an obvious hook. There are no drawn-out, self-indulgent solos; the energy feels expertly constructed, which gives the songs a bright confidence. The passion inherent in the lyrics is one step removed from heavy metal, but again The Constantines prove too mature to stick solely to a single style and sound. That's fortunate for the band and their listeners alike, as righteous posturing would stain an otherwise fresh, original voice.

Shine A Light's latter half hints that the band-members not only have a shelf-full of Clash records, but give them regular use. The songs clip along with a feverish quiver that threatens to explode at any point. When those explosions come, they're not when you'd expect, but they're perfectly timed. You may feel as if you've been shown up, your expectations subverted, but in the very best way -- you'll grudgingly admit that the band's ideas were better than yours.

The successful mixture of genres and sounds continues clear through to the album's end. "Sub-Domestic" is a barreling, growling country stomp, harder than anything you'll hear on commercial country stations. It hints at further musical expansion in The Constantines' future, but also cements their skill at crossing musical boundaries and filtering other styles through their own aesthetic.

Like it or lump it, Shine A Light is a terrifically solid effort. If you let it in, it's going to make you love it.



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