Shine A Light is the Constantines’ sophomore album, and their first on revered Seattle indie label Sub Pop. The band consists of five, punk-loving young men from Ontario, Canada, and you will be forgiven for not having heard of them until now. They may not be so obscure soon, however, if this remarkably accomplished album is anything to go by.
Our first taste of The Constantines comes in the shape of National Hum, a frantic and relentless thrash that rips through your head without apologising. Lyrics are rendered largely incomprehensible thanks to some furious growling, but it’s a startling noise nonetheless. Fortunately title-track Shine A Light brings things down somewhat, and ends up being a beautiful calm-after-the-storm moment (after an admittedly disjointed intro, that is). Indeed it is in such relatively calmer tracks as Shine A Light that The Constantines reverberate curious lyrical twists and stupidly enjoyable bass lines.
Nighttime/Anytime (It’s Alright) is the first jaw-dropping song on the album, and toys with a sound so authentic that it’s hard to believe it’s brand spanking new material. Imagine, if you will, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs transported back to an ’80s or even ’70s punk scene, with Karen O replaced by a rabid-yet-poetic frontman. It sounds good on paper, and it sounds even better on your stereo.
The Constantines clearly respect their musical heritage, with Young Lions apparently being a song about The Clash. Like one-time Sub Pop legends Nirvana, much attention is paid to dynamics, in terms of song structure as well as overall track-listing. Sub-Domestic has Meat Puppets written all over it, and Goodbye Baby & Amen threatens to break out into something deafening, but never does. That’s not a bad thing, however – it remains an impressive testament to the versatility of the band. They may, in fact, be more effective in reflection than anger.
Shine A Light is melodic throughout, and home to no filler at all, not a single second. It is sure to carve out a place for the Constantines as a new and exciting band with a peak-and-trough ethic so good that their quiet moments are literally charged with energy. A thrilling album, and a commendable addition to anyone’s collection.