Though this is their second album, so few people heard the Constantines' self-titled debut that, in effect, Shine a Light is the introduction to the band's sound for many. Fortunately, it's a good one, delivering on the rough-hewn ambitions of the Constantines with a fiery intensity that few of their contemporaries can match. On harshly brooding songs like the title track and "Nighttime/Anytime (It's Alright)" -- on which singer Bryan Webb sounds like it's anything but -- and on quiet mood pieces like "Goodbye Baby & Amen," the Constantines sound focused, meaningful, and, above all, smart. Indeed, this intensity and intelligence can be overwhelming at times; the sharply restrained focus of Shine a Light's first few songs borders on the dour, and strangely enough, many of the album's more accessible songs come toward its end. Still, there's no denying the stark magnetism of "Insectivora" or the anthemic charge of "Young Lions," which reaffirms that the Springsteen comparisons surrounding the band are well-founded. Despite its occasionally intimidating sound, the group is capable of crafting fairly poppy songs without sacrificing any of its smarts or edge, as displayed by the excellent "On to You" and "Poison," which sound a little bit like a tougher, more soulful Spoon. Similarly, even the Constantines' most aggressive songs have intricate touches, such as the keyboard flourishes on "Scoundrel Babes." A tautly crafted, thoughtful album, Shine a Light more than follows through on the promise of their debut, and proves that the Constantines have the ability to be both down to earth and dramatic within their grasp.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares