Constantines

Tournament of Hearts (Sub Pop)

The Constantines' first two albums cast a very long shadow. Combining post-punk instrumental smarts with dark, Springsteen-style anthems, their self-titled debut and Shine a Light are two of the best rock records of the aughts, so it's not surprising that the Ontario band's third album, Tournament of Hearts, arrives with some big expectations to weigh it down. The Cons don't let that deter them, however, roaring out of the gate with the thunderous drums and feedback of "Draw Us Lines" and the sexy, simmering "Hotline Operator," where lead singer Bryan Webb works his distinctive, soulful rasp to its limits. The album falters when guitarist Steve Lambke takes the mike on otherwise-compelling "Thieves," as his voice can't hold a candle to Webb's powerful delivery. It's like the Boss handing over vocal duties to Little Steven in the middle of Darkness on the Edge of Town, and the gaffe is unacceptable on an album that's only 36 minutes long. Lambke fares a little better on acoustic album closer "Windy Road," but it still sounds quaint coming after "You Are a Conductor," where Webb sings, "There's a little evil in everything" over a wall of sound as epic and windswept as the Canadian tundra.
 
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