CONSTANTINES: Tournament of Hearts: CD

It’s the drums on “Draw Us Lines,” the first track off of Toronto-based five-piece Constantines’ third album Tournament of Hearts, that will draw in listeners. It is a hard, firm beat that will wrap around you like the tight, warm grip of a friend dragging you toward the center of thick, dank crowd at a rock show. You aren’t sure that you want to go there. You think that it might be safer in your corner, away from the heat of the pit. But you follow regardless and you realize that this swarm of energy has just saved your night. Tournament of Hearts is that kind of album. At just under thirty-seven minutes, Tournament of Hearts is by no means epic in structure, but it packs more intensity than many bands will do in an entire career. Vocals play gravelly, as if sung while sucking down the last of a pack of cigarettes at 4:00 A.M. in the middle of a parking lot against January cold. There is a sense of studied precision in the guitar work, showing that Steve Lambke and Bryan Webb have an intimate understanding of their respective instruments but just aren’t willing to cross the line into public displays of guitar-solo affection. Add to this the occasional horn, keyboards, and bass work that delve into the sort of sound you might here on a Dusty Fingers rare groove compilation (most notably on “Hotline Operator” and “Thieves”) and the folk strum of “Windy Road” and you have an album that deftly draws from various sources without sounding jumbled or losing sight of its punk rock roots.

 –liz (Sub Pop)