Record Review - 2 October 23 2003

Forget about Jack Black and an $8.50 movie ticket. If you're in search of a real rock 'n' roll education, look no further than the second record by Ontario natives the Constantines. The quintet's sound is pure sonic jack from the last 30 years.

Lead singer Bry Webb's got a throaty gruff of a voice that he can somehow use to trace the annals of punk through to heartland rock. The schizophrenic opener, "National Hum," finds him crooning like Johnny Rotten. On the angular anthem "Nighttime/ Anytime (It's Alright)," he channels Joe Strummer. As the album progresses to its middle and finish, he's gone Jersey boy, with a dead-on Springsteen impression. That's three instantly recognizable lifts in one ferocious package.

Lyrically and instrumentally, the Constantines are equally confrontational, occasionally hostile and ostensibly defiant. Webb decries government and advocates for a mobilization of youth in "National Hum." Like an epic, resounding motivational speech, albeit with some disturbing imagery, "Young Lions" fires on all cylinders like it's vintage E Street Band — soaring guitars and all (except the multi-thump Fugazi drumbeat that would scare Max Weinberg out of his stiffly pressed suit).

As the record moves to its second half, fresher elements (keyboards and the like) make their way into the mix — effectively brightening the album, musically if not necessarily lyrically. But with lines like, "If you're looking for affection/Best be careful where you lay your name/Cause they'll pin your renegade heart to the wall/And leave you there to hang," Webb and friends prove that some habits die hard.

Constantines play the Echo Lounge Wed., Oct. 29. $8.