Every week HEADWARMER. will go in search of the forgotten classics; albums that sniffed at the success they deserved before disappearing beneath mounds of mainstream mediocrity. This week Matt Crooker dives deep into the eponymous debut from Ontario’s finest indie lotharios, The Constantines
1. THE CONSTANTINES – The Constantines
(Three Gut Records, 2001)
Words that describe early Clash/E Street/Fugazi: brilliant, energetic, powerful, intense, passionate. Play the game with yourself and see what you come up with. I prefer ‘lean, hungry’. Two simple words that sum up the early incarnations of the above listed iconic bands. They also sum up just about every important band from the last 50 years but lets focus on those three. Each had a notion to be a great band but was unclear of what that meant. They all seemed to get that it wasn’t about scenes or haircuts or ‘one big hit’ – it was about performance and hard work and sweat. It was about WILLING yourself to greatness. Lean. Hungry.
The Constantines are a Canadian band who emerged from the farmlands that spread out from Toronto’s border in the early 2000s. Do your own research on who they are and how they formed – it is what it is and chews up time to talk about their fantastic debut album. It suffices to say that they arrived on a scene that was a little too focused on individual originality. Bands and artists who were so keen to demonstrate their uniqueness they forgot why they were on stage in the first place. The Constantines, more than just about any band I have ever witnessed, plugged into their amps and exploded into your life. T-shirts and heartfelt accounts of being a young man screamed to he point of hoarseness over stabbed power chords and driving rhythms.
Their self-titled debut arrived courtesy of a now defunct, and sorely missed, label called Three Gut and created a buzz based on pure merit. Beginning with the sound of gear firing up, ‘Arizona’ encapsulates the essential components of The Constantines philosophy – destroy Rock and rebuild Rock in its place. Scrape the corpses clean and erect a new stage on those old bones. Again and again Bry Webb delivers lines that so illuminate his generation it still shocks me he isn’t mentioned in the same breaths as Costello and Weller or Chuck D. I’m anxious to compose a laundry list of lyrics but I’d rather you find them for yourself, belted out over music that feels as utterly vital as a rebel stand. It’s music that validates our fucked up little lives. It elevates our struggle while unifying us as brothers and sisters in toil and joy. Not bad for some lean, hungry farm boys. Go get it.