Every Record I Own - Day 257: Constantines Tournament of Hearts
Starhawk in a street ritual / pleas from Herald Square to the heavens, earth, and seas / Let the land move its people / and draw us lines from our fiery designs
…Bryan Webb sings against a squall of feedback, synth-drones, and pounding toms at the beginning of Constantines’ third album. The opening track “Draw Us Lines” consists of one chord, but Webb weaves a melody around it in such a way that the austerity of the song feels forceful and triumphant rather than naked and sparse. Starhawk is an influential activist/author best known for expanding public awareness of ecofeminism and feminist Neopaganism, so what might seem like gibberish upon first listen winds up being an ode to the wonders of the natural world—an invitation to look beyond the concrete grind of urban life.
Tournament of Hearts was not met with the same enthusiasm as its predecessor Shine a Light. It’s a record of tension and reserve. The bombastic pay-offs of their first two album are reigned in, with songs like “Hotline Operator” and “Love in Fear” exercising so much restraint that it almost feels like some crucial climax was hastily cut from the final mix. It’s also a record fixated on the drab and dreary realities of the working class. But these aren’t proletariat anthems—the songs don’t romanticize the drill. Rather, Tournament of Hearts is a series of vignettes on average working folks, presented in with the band’s trademark neutral aesthetic. And maybe that’s why a lot of folks talked about Tournament of Hearts with the same degree of enthusiasm they muster for Monday mornings.
I was one of those people. After obsessing over Shine a Light, Tournament of Hearts was a disappointment. Only the crowd-pleasing Creedence Clearwater Revival-esque “Soon Enough” stood out, with its chorus serving as the clearest distillation of the albums unglamorous pragmatism.
Soon enough / work and love will make a man out of you
It took several years before the record clicked, but now it’s my favorite album in the Constantines discography. It’s their toughest album to love, but if you can fall in line with it’s tempo and temperature, it provides rich rewards.
Bad weather / anxiety and fear / don’t give in / call on her / and live in fascination / fascination forever