Shine a Light by The Constantines (Review)

This could be a lost classic of the late ’80s British punk scene or the DC post-punk movement.
Shine a Light - The Constantines

Three Gut Records are at the center of a newly resurgent Toronto music scene, responsible for a string of stunning releases that should be the envy of every other independent label owner around the world. Three Gut simply does not put out bad records. Ever. And at the center of Three Gut’s rise are two acts; the alt-country Royal City who have just inked an international deal with Rough Trade and the post-punk genius that is The Constantines, also newly signed to an international record deal with Seattle’s Sub Pop.

The Constantines are critics’ darlings up here, and for good reason. They take all the best things about the punk and post-punk movements of the ’80s and ’90s — there’s a good bit of Fugazi in their sound, as well as The Clash — break it down, mix it up, and spit it out in a new form that reminds all of those jaded cynics just what exactly it was about rock n’ roll that made it all matter so much in the first place.

There’s a primal energy to the Constantines’ work, some primitive energy to Bry Webb’s yelping vocals. There’s an edge of desperation to it, the sense that these boys are pouring their lives into their work and though there’s a good bit of swagger to their step, there’s no posturing at all. This is the real thing.

Shine a Light, The Constantines first album with Sub Pop and second with Three Gut, is absolutely timeless. This could be a lost classic of the late ’80s British punk scene or the DC post-punk movement every bit as easily as something produced here and now. What’s so impressive about the disc is just how effortlessly, how naturally the band makes those timeless sounds their own. There’s no sense that anybody ever came up with the idea to make this record sound like band X or movement Y — this is straight from the gut. Straight from the heart.

Is one band enough to make rock n’ roll matter again? I have no idea but The Constantines are certainly giving it their best shot.

Written by Chris Brown.