Every Record I Own - Day 216: Constantines Kensington Heights
I’m hard-pressed to think of a better rock band in the ‘00s than Constantines.
It feels a little wrong to begin the conversation about the Toronto-based indie quintent by discussing their last record, but we’ll discuss their first three LPs when I get my records out of storage.
I purchased this used LP a couple of months ago, but I’ve had a promo copy of the CD ever since their label sent it to The Stranger back in early 2008. I had just started freelancing/interning at the alternative newspaper and the music editor tasked me with writing a review. It would’ve been my first paid piece outside of a few short concert previews.
My review for Kensington Heights was glowing. Perhaps too glowing… it didn’t get published. The editor cited lack of space, but I think he was just being polite. It was basically 300 words of me gushing like a fan boy without really ever talking about what the album sounds like. Given my write-ups here, not much has changed in ten years, I suppose.
So here’s my second chance. Constantines were occasionally described as sounding like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and Fugazi. I would say this is accurate, though not in the way one would expect. One could argue that Against Me! sounded like Fugazi and The Boss—a topical songwriter bolstered by roaring punk guitars. But Constantines conjure The Boss from the stark and soulful Nebraska years, not the anthemic E-Street records, and they pull from the dynamic space and understated interplay between instruments on the last three Fugazi records, not the post-hardcore archetypes of 13 Songs and Repeater. There are no sing-a-longs, no anthems—just earnest slow-burn rock n’ roll delivered with conviction, soul, brains, and good taste.
A lot of folks will tell you that their second album Shine A Light was their best album. These people are wrong. Every Constantines album required some time. People slowly fell in love with Shine A Light over time and then expected every subsequent album to be immediately gratifying. It’s a pity, because Constantines just got better and better as a band, and to celebrate their early work while ignoring Kensington Heights is tragic.