by carl wilson

8. The Constantines - Shine a Light

I think I was nearly the last person in Toronto to come around to this band, but their earlier work didn't cry out to me the way this second album does. For people in this city, 2003 was a tough (thanks to SARS, the blackout, economic uncertainty and other factors) but fascinating year - and one of its happiest moments was when longtime mayor Mel Lastman finally got the hell out of office. And as if that weren't good enough, thanks to the efforts of a lot of committed civic-minded people, our new mayor turned out to be David Miller, a man who inspires more faith than pretty much any politician that I've ever seen.

(You should have seen him at the special election-campaign Trampoline Hall that I helped organize in early November: dealing gamely with odd questions from the young crowd of artists and others, speaking on "Beauty and the Aesthetic City" and in every other way adapting himself as much as you could ask to the eccentric particularities of the event rather than sticking to any spin game of his own. It was remarkable.)

And what does all that have to do with the Constantines? Well, from an opening line quite directly about the scandal-ridden Lastman - "Your mayor is raising fences to keep bodies off the Don Valley Parkway/ Send your praises to the mechanics of the state" - through the only song I know to portray the Biblical level of violence that has been taking place in this area's suburban discos, to a final line that evokes the tireless work against the gloomiest odds that people do to keep this city living - "Reconstructive scavengers, termite sympathizers/ All sick and sleepless, caught up in the wires" - this album captured the darkest parts of the city's mood and proclaimed them fuel for fury and change - which is exactly what they turned out to be.

I've written in a column about some of my problems with the exact place of politics in these songs, but those are relatively minor complaints: If all the artists and the citizens were this engaged, and as engaging as the Constantines' geometry-problem guitars layered over with soulful horns and hushed voices, not just this city but the whole world would be quite a different place. I'm happy enough, though, that this city is such a different place than it was twelve months ago.

On Record | Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 09 at 11:45 PM | Linking Posts

 

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Zoilus by Carl Wilson