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CD Review: Constantines

Kensington Heights

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The Deal: Authentic, life-affirming, gen-u-ine rock 'n' roll from Canadian troupe.

The Good: We hear a lot about rock 'n' roll's redemptive powers, most of it rote and rarely lived in. Not so for Canada's Constantines, one of the few acts with the talent and brass ones to make us believe this shit really is life or death. On its fourth full-length and first for Arts & Crafts, the band's fully matured arsenal is cocked and pointed at our heads, from the nerve-wracking riffs of explosive opener "Hard Feelings" and the Mission of Burma-meets-The Clash "Credit River" to the wide-screen, slightly twanged-up epics "New King" and "Life or Death." Like Joe Strummer and Paul Westerberg at the peak of their powers or the Hold Steady's Craig Finn, Constantines' front man Bryan Webb rasps simple truths into aphoristic gold while trying to wrestle his fury – at blind leaders, broken loves, and all life's "ruined architecture" (from the record's finest moment, "Time Can Be Overcome") – into better angels. On the cautionary tale "I Will Not Sing a Hateful Song," Webb acknowledges that the last sound he makes "could be the last (he) hears," and so endeavors to remain upbeat in the face of so much to be downcast about – all the while proving the band's conviction would mean nothing to us unless it meant absolutely everything to the Constantines.

The Bad: Webb doesn't sing one of the songs.

The Verdict: Beg, borrow, buy, steal.

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