Constantines Tournament of Hearts

Possibly the most disappointing thing about the Constantines’ latest release is the fact that the band could do much better, and have. Their self-titled debut was a scalding, spitting cauldron of country-bound angst, but that particular sound doesn’t transfer well to an arena setting, which is where this album seems to be planted. Things get off to a decent start: the opener, "Draw Us Lines,” is a sort of grunge march, with a slow, heavy drumbeat, a power-tool guitar drone, a constant, cat-call melody and a rousing "Hey!” every so often. The follower, "Hotline Operator,” starts off with a tense, minimal verse… and builds up to a climax that comes like a little hiccup. So begins Tournament of Hearts. What the band are trying to do is not quite clear — listening to it is like walking into a delivery room mid-birth and, disappointed and a little upset by the scene, having to wait outside again. The songs skim through weak country-psych, melancholy alternative rock, half-assed rock’n’roll and even Britpop, but never seem to settle properly or borrow sufficiently from any genre. There’s something bubbling, but it’s a weak broth. Sure, there are pops and splashes — "Good Nurse” is wistful, and "You Are a Conductor” is interesting compared to the rest of the album — but there isn’t any flavour. This is a release on par with a lot of indie rock music circa now — and it’s kind of a shame. (Three Gut)