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The Constantines - Kensington Heights (Cover Artwork)

The Constantines

The Constantines: Kensington HeightsKensington Heights (2008)
Arts and Crafts

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:


Contributed by: adamAdam
(others by this writer | submit your own)

There's a very Canadian notion that underscores the Constantines' entire body of work. While most of us live in cities, urbanites by birth and habit, we take great pride in portraying ourselves as rural creatures. We've romanticized the pioneer, that ideal of the rough hewn, nature conscious, workin.
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There's a very Canadian notion that underscores the Constantines' entire body of work. While most of us live in cities, urbanites by birth and habit, we take great pride in portraying ourselves as rural creatures. We've romanticized the pioneer, that ideal of the rough hewn, nature conscious, working class figure that's at the heart of the Canadian myth. We'd like to think that deep down we're all Voyageurs out there in the hinterlands, even if we're only ever pulled north on summer weekends to fight off Muskoka black flies. There's a lingering sense of loss, a worry that we're sacrificing some nobler heritage for the comforts and tensions of city life. Perhaps by adopting the weary yet wise demeanor of this (largely fictional) woodsman, we'll at least keep our wits about us. Thematically this dynamic has absolutely everything to do with the Constantines.

Kensington Heights is a more dynamic album than it's predecessor, but Tournament of Hearts' lessons in restraint and subtlety are far from forgotten. The Cons long ago embraced the sense of weight that comes with a slow burn. The lumbering chorus of "Million Star Hotel" is perhaps the best example of this. The passion's there, but the song stomps and trudges where a younger, greener Constantine may have defaulted to frenetic dissonance. "Hard Feelings, "Trans Canada" and "Credit River" are the album's anthems, never reaching the chaotic freshness of past singles ("Nighttime / Anytime" in particular) but efficient, driving and well crafted. Since their sophomore full length each Cons record has included a handful of astonishingly wise and downright life-affirming rock songs. We saw it in peerless cuts like "Young Lions" and "Soon Enough," and Kensington Heights clocks in with three, if not four contenders. "New King," "Brother Run Them Down," "Our Age" and "Time Can Be Overcome" each strive to carry on this legacy and are positively beautiful. Bryan Webb is stronger in his role of elder statesmen than he is a rock star and the gravitas he lends these songs can't be understated. It's taken some time for the band discover the best way to apply Steve Lambke's contrasting vocal style, but "Shower of Stones" is one of his better works.

As the Constantines matured they've incurred something of a backlash. There's scattered criticism that as the band moved on from their Fugazi weaned origins they grew too comfortable. If Kensington Heights proves anything it's that while Fugazi is hardly lost they are fighting for stage time with Young, Lightfoot and Cohen. That's the dynamic. "Waiting Room" is too tense for cottage country and alienated kids on the subway probably don't blow off steam to the "Canadian Railroad Trilogy." The Constantines straddle both worlds, but those looking for tension and rebellion are going to come up short and will undoubtedly find the record overlong. There's a tipping point where one becomes confident enough in their worldview that they stop having to nervously scream about it, and the Constantines crossed that line two records ago. Your mileage will vary if that's what you're seeking.

There's the faintest hint of a subgenre emerging in Canadian rock that runs parallel to the indie rock boom but is really something else entirely. It may not be self-aware yet, but there's a commonality of spirit and priority shared among an increasing number of bands. You can hear it in punk acts like the Weakerthans and the recently emerged Attack In Black. You hear it in folk groups like FemBots and alt-country bands like Cuff The Duke and Elliott Brood. It underlies the acclaimed indie rock of Apostle Of Hustle and Jason Collett. You find its sensibilities on stage with Ladyhawk and in the catalogue of our dearly departed Deadly Snakes. I can't give it a name, but the Constantines are its standard bearers.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Constantines - Shine A LightAgainst Me! - As The Eternal CowboyThe Constantines - Tournament of HeartsThe Weakerthans - Left and LeavingThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!The Weakerthans - Reunion TourAgainst Me! - White CrossesFugazi - The ArgumentAgainst Me! - Searching For A Former ClarityThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
strikeeverywhere (August 26, 2008)

A NEW PUNK BAND WITH AN OLD-SCHOOL FEEL!!!

www.myspace.com/mayasruin

Check it out!!!

FrankFF (August 9, 2008)

One of my favourite releases of the year so far... Can't wait to finally see them in September...

boogieburgs (August 6, 2008)

couldn't really get into this record, but it is better than tournament of hearts. the self-titled and shine a light were fucking awesome though.

the_ken_chin_imposter (August 6, 2008)

This band should change their name to the Consistentines. They keep on putting out good albums that fail to blow my mind.

greenvandal (August 6, 2008)

The cons are one of my favorite bands but...

this album is bland in every sense of the world. I listened to it about 30 times and then gave up.

kpave (August 5, 2008)

nice review, i get what you mean about that particular je ne sais quoi in certain canadian music

DarrenMcLeod (August 5, 2008)

great review.

i don't think i'd score it quite as high (I'd give it a 7), but i also would score most of their albums lower than most people would. Just not so much my thing, though.

Still, some really great tracks and a really good band.

i-type-poorly (August 5, 2008)

I think the reviewer gives this band too much credit for their effort and Canadian aura or whatever; but this is a solid album. None of the songs are bad, they're just nothing outstanding.

ddb43 (August 5, 2008)

NIce review. I really like this album.

bryne (August 5, 2008)

I was wondering when Adam was gonna get around to reviewing this.

Good record.

Sliced-T (August 5, 2008)

There is some really great songs on this album, but it is definitely the first step to the side for the band rather than a step forward like on all their past albums. By no means is it a step backward either.

Very well written review, btw.

baseball (August 5, 2008)

Definitely didn't hit me as quick as their other albums, but I keep finding myself going back to this. Then I realized this is just as good as everything else they've done. "Time Can Be Overcome" and "I Will Not Sing A Hateful Song" are great.

Really good review and really good album.

Jesse (August 5, 2008)

Yeah.

New Canadian Americana.

Right here:
http://www.punknews.org/review/7082

adam (August 5, 2008)

Jesse called it "New Canadian Americana" earlier, which I think is pretty rad.

-adam

SloaneDaley (August 5, 2008)

I agree with your description of that unnameable subgenre, perhaps Canadiana fits?

SloaneDaley (August 5, 2008)

I was tempted to review this, but I kept holding out that you would Adam because I knew you'd give it's review the attention it deserves.

slymer (August 5, 2008)

The review is great. Don't know how I feel about the album yet though.

andrewking (August 5, 2008)

I enjoyed this review, and think I need to spend some more time with the record.

sweetsuperior (August 5, 2008)

great review. thanks.

the_other_scott (August 5, 2008)

i picked this up the week it came out and listened to it like 5 times and then totally forgot i had it until right now.

that's not a sight on the record, just a weird thing that happened. thanks for the reminder.

nocigar (August 5, 2008)

awesome. that's all I can say.

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