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Constantines - The Modern Sinner Nervous Man EP

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Artist: Constantines

Album: The Modern Sinner Nervous Man EP

Label: Suicide Squeeze

Review date: May. 6, 2002

Toronto's The Constantines offer up a nifty little urban youth exorcism, Dischord style, with their three song, twelve minute The Modern Sinner Nervous Man EP on Seattle's durable Suicide Squeeze. It's far too familiar sounding to approach incendiary, but it's not a bad take on redemption in the concrete jungle by way of some recycled Repeater riffs.

"Dirty Business" gets swiftly to the point, with a frantic dual-guitar attack and a hustling, if not excessively busy, rhythm section. "Cut the wires of surveillance / and feed your glass eyes to the rats," is an early call to arms, and while the high-voltage, staccato riffage hardly encourages detailed reflection – are "glass eyes" and "wires of surveillance" a literate evocation of Emerson's God siphoned into some hellish 1984 nightmare, or is the anthropomorphic sensation of rat teeth on glass what’s doing it here? – it is, in any case, cryptic and catchy enough to linger on if the snare doesn't whip your feet out from under you.

Then things get a little too tidy in the chorus, as the singer switches from the gravelly, straight-from-the-throat, fury of post-punk to the alt-rock sheen of some Gavin Rossdale, and everything threatens to turn too conventional to even want to bother with. "Rise from the ditches invisible and indivisible" certainly boasts more clarity, but rallying the displaced victims of gentrification sounded more urgent on The Argument's "Cashout". I kind of liked the business with rats and wires better – the city as some backwoods devil's new haunt, traded for the familiar sights of poster glue and sloganeering.

"Underneath the Stop Signs" is pretty much more of the same, though the guitars get more room to stretch out and create some texture. It's not bad stuff, but the fact that the rhythm section so obviously needs more to do is a testament to the brilliance of Fugazi's Brendan Canty and Joe Lally, who have set a standard that Constantines everywhere consistently find difficult to meet. The ambiguous lyric threatens to turn into the adolescent poet's grafitti ("cradle me in your crooked heart"?), but there's enough interesting guitar play to overshadow it.

The last track, "Blind Luck" is the best of the three: if not musically, at least because there is some earnest fusion of ideas going on, some reaching towards a new place between post-punk and the eclectic mysticism of a Califone. The vocals are surprisingly Springsteen-esque, and the tone is informed by some vague, rootsy blues. "I come from a long line of bad teeth / I've got a foul mouth of black and gold." These colors and sounds float effectively between tent revivals and tenements, and the blurring of boundaries is sublime. It's a good note to end on, and one that hints at an emergence of a distinguishing personality.

By Nathan Hogan

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