"Hard Feelings" by The Constantines
It would be unfair to classify the three albums leading up to Constantines' new Kensington Heights as rough drafts; those records are plenty strong enough to stand on their own. But Kensington Heights synthesizes everything the Canadian arena-punks do well, with rousing blue-collar rockers and tightly wound, soul-searching ballads delivered with equally passionate, life-or-death commitment. Any album in Constantines' catalog could legitimately be called the band's best, but Kensington Heights stands apart as the most complete work. It's also the most mature, though "mature" shouldn't be confused with "mellow." Far from an easygoing slice of complacent contentedness, Kensington Heights finds the band pinpointing its angry energy with expert precision, rather than flailing with the wild abandon of old. Unlike so many crash-and-burn punk bands before them, Constantines have learned to expunge youthful frustrations in order to take on larger, more complicated struggles. "I will not sing a hateful song, though it's in me to sing," says Bry Webb, in his characteristic Bruce Springsteen shout, on the standout "I Will Not Sing A Hateful Song." It's an inspiring sentiment, whether you're pushing 30, 40, or 15.