When Canadian cult-rockers Constantines released Kensington Heights last April, the reaction it spawned was that of a subtle shocker. Three albums deep (Constantines, Shine a Light, Tournament of Heart), the perpetually, "always-on-the-verge" outfit could lay claim to an impressive linage of blue-collar kind of fare. But this - the album that signaled the band's jump from Sub Pop to Arts and Crafts - was something...different.
Sure, the album brings with it a few familiar, heavy handed cuts. Songs like "Hard Feelings", "Credit River", and "Trans Canada" - all swirling with the kind of incendiary guitar tones and brutish rhythms long time fans have come to appreciate these sonic stalwarts for - barrel along like a bullet train cutting its' way across the great white north's frozen tundra. But the band's stride for something slower, more scaled back, and quieter is evident in a majority of the compositions offered here. "Our Age", "Time Can Be Overcome", "I Will Not Sing a Hateful Song", and "New King" strike new chords altogether; ones that are more soulful, and in it, allow singer Bryan Webb the time and space to push his raspy anthems further than previous recordings. Truly, Kensington marks a decisive evolution from a bruising, straight laced enterprise, to that of a more well-rounded outfit...one that teeters beautifully on the brink of youth and thirty-something maturity.
For some critics and fans, this kind of change means a challenge. Accepting that a much beloved band has changed is sometimes far from easy. But for those willing to make the jump with the boys...for those who give Kensington Heights the time and patience it truly demands, the finest work in the Constantines' storied library is your reward. - David Pitz