Ontario's Constantines has parlayed its intriguing brand of art-punk into a decade of rock 'n' roll relevance by balancing humor and consequence. Only a band with a special touch could write a song about suicide ("Arizona") and, in that song, describe rock 'n' roll as "that great gospel jest."
Over the course of four albums, Bryan Webb and Steve Lambke have led this quintet to the peak of critical (if not commercial) acclaim. Comparisons to everyone from The Clash to NickCave certainly haven't dampened the band's reputation. However, Kensington Heights, Constantines' 2008 effort, received middling reviews that spoke of the band treading water instead of forging new directions. Such criticism, while unquestionably valid, is a little off target seeing that the band's initial sound was already unlike most of what gets bandied about as rock these days. Listening to Kensington Heights' "Hard Feelings," "Shower of Stones" and "I Will Not Sing a Hateful Song," it's difficult not to be bowled over by the band's ability to fuse Fugazi with Springsteen. If that's treading water, then let's all go swimming.