Review Summary: Shine a Light, The Constantines' second album is also one of the their best. Featuring visceral guitars, pounding bass lines and powerful imagery. It's a complex and oblique album that is as rewarding the first time you listen to it as it is the sixtieth.
It has been almost seven years since the Constantines released their self-titled debut, in the time since the band has released three more albums; all equally worthy of your attention. Yet, despite this, the band remains largely unknown beyond the boarders of their native Canada. In hopes of remedying this, I present to you, what is in my opinion their finest work to date, their second release Shine a Light. The Constantines are:
Bryan Webb - guitars, vocals
Steve Lambke - guitars, vocals
Doug MacGregor - drums
Dallas Wehrie - Bass, backing vocals
Will Kidman - Keyboards, backing vocals
The Constantines sound equal parts Fugazi, The Clash, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. Dallas and Doug provide the backbone of the band with their almost mathematical groves; the comparisons to Fugazi are especially apt here. Whereas, Bryan and Steve dual guitar assault is reminiscent of the Clash. Bryan’s singing and lyrics take the best aspects of all the above mentioned artists, his lyrics are poetic, full of beautiful imagery and visceral all at the same time; If you appreciate powerful wordplay you will not be disappointed. That being said, the Constantines synthesize their influences in such a way that, although you can hear the bands which they are indebted to they still forge a sonic identity that is all their own.
Highlights of the album include: Shine a Light, the albums’ second song, which starts with white noise giving way a low bass grove that transitions to a subtle guitar verse at which point Bryan comes in with his first lyrics of the album. “don’t talk to me about simple things/there is no such thing/all a man can do is build his vision/and I love my man for trying”. It’s a powerful thesis statement for a album that deals with the coming age of a young man, including all the highs and lows.
Young Lions, the album’s most accessible is nothing short of anthemic and epic. Bryan sings “Oh young lions/this is your kingdom/every beast has its poison/every lion has its victim”. The song also contains the best imagery of the album “empty mickey by the river, shining like a broken arrow”. Its a powerful celebration of that one time in your life when you can escape home and simply going drinking with your friends.
Sub-Domestic the album’s closing track sounds like a cross between the Stones’ Wild Horses and No Shelter. The song starts quietly, but builds to a climatic end that is finishes the album in a high note.
However, there are weak points to the album, the pacing in the middle is a bit off and the opening track National Hum is probably the weakest track. That being said, Shine a Light is a still a album you should give a listen to. The best compliment I can give it is that each successive listen will reveal something new and interesting that you didn’t notice before, and for that reason you will still be listening to it months after your first listen.
Shine a Light