Try to hear this unlikely musical encounter in your head: Shane MacGowan, possessed by the ghost of Joe Strummer and 20 pints of Guinness, staggers into his rehearsal space, only it's not the Pogues staring at his disheveled ass -- it's Ian MacKaye and the rest of Fugazi. Instead of stumbling out to find the right room, MacGowan grabs the mic and lets fly his fervid, raspy slur, while the cerebral punk band launches into its trademark angularity and dynamic exactitude.
That, in a nutshell, is the strange and piquant vibe of Shine a Light, the second full-length album from Canada's Constantines. Singer-guitarist Bry Webb plays the role of MacGowan/Strummer, and he can manipulate his croak into either an urgent near-howl or a gruff yet soulful grunt. Meanwhile, bassist Dallas Wehrle, much like Fugazi's Joe Lally or the Jesus Lizard's David Wm. Sims, is the band's most potent weapon, pushing the intensity with an insistent melodic throb on the more inflamed tracks.
This taut, unorthodox approach works best for the Constantines. The quasi-pub-rock of "On to You" and the stomping, rootsy "Sub-Domestic" do not; those tracks bend and scuff the edges of what would otherwise be a mint offering. Stick to the road less traveled, fellas -- it makes all the difference.