The urgency and earnestness that bleeds freely from the Constantines recordings and live sets tangled me up years ago. The Toronto-based quintet’s fourth full length, Kensington Heights (named after the neighborhood where their practice space is located) finds the band at their most accessible to date.
That’s not to say that they haven’t always had their fair share of pop-sensibility. All their records have had appeal, but with Kensington Heights much of the angular, post-punk undercurrents that traced their early works have been abandoned in favor of full-blown working class rock ’n’ roll. The result is epic, a stirring collection of songs that burn with soul and guttural melody. Listening to the record, one can’t help to feel that there’s a greater purpose at play — the conviction in lead vocalist Bry Webb’s barbed howls rings out with sermon-severity. When paired with the band’s knack for high-volume anthems and restrained, jagged beauty it’d be hard for even the staunchest of non-believers to remain unaffected. Although the production value shines and while the band plays with interlocked perfection, Kensington Heights never comes off as excessively polished but rather retains a steadfast sense of raw vibrance and aggression. This is the real deal — music for the people, music by the people. Springsteen could learn a thing or two from this one.