P.S I Love You – Death Dreams
aaamusic | On 27, May 2012
To this day, I’ve yet to come across a musical duo that sounds like they’re a duo on record. Live that’s a different story, obviously, but on record most duos strain to make themselves sound as powerfully enormous as possible and continuing this trait, perfected by the likes of Exitmusic, The White Stripes and Middle Class Rut are Canadian noise-rockers PS I Love You. Don’t let the name fool you, guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist Paul Saulnier and drummer Benjamin Nelson, create a frantic, noisy yet classy racket that’s as accessible as it is ear-drum perforating and it’s excellent on more levels than I could possibly shoe-horn into a review. Not gonna stop me trying though.
Beginning with another seemingly omnipresent opening track of discordant noise swelling into the second track and first song proper Sentimental Dishes, the album manages to wrong foot us in the first five minutes, the wily fiend. On an album called Death Dreams that starts with a swirling, moody, guitar led soundscape with a melody that, according to Saulnier, was cribbed from a nightmare he had, Sentimental Dishes smashes in on skyscraper sized drums and a warmly distorted guitar riff that sounds like Ash performing the greatest Replacements song Paul Westerberg never got drunk enough to write. Some swooning, hiccupped vocals later and the most awesomely silly tapping guitar solo since the last Hold Steady record later, it crashes to a halt. This is a strangely joyous record from then on, filled with little touches that would seem utterly incongruous in less deft hands, like the barely noticeable belted note in the chorus of Don’t Go, the stop/start dynamics of How Do You, and the Mary Chain mutated A Place to Bury Strangers impression on Princess Towers that saves the record from what could be an enjoyably one note fate and brings it depth, dimension and an unrivalled replay value.
Truly this could be one of the very few rock records I’ve ever heard that could be better on record than live, which isn’t to say that seeing it performed live isn’t something I desperately want to see, but the subtlety and nuance would surely be sacrificed in favour of more direct guitar rock thrills, which the nit-picker in me is a little bit miffed about. In fact the only direct problem the album has is in Saulnier’s singing voice, which I honestly can’t think of any real comparison beyond Television’s Tom Verlaine if he didn’t know when to stop. On the first couple of listens it’s engaging but his habit of cracking his voice at the end of every lyric and phrase grates. Luckily most of his time is spent devoted to his outrageous guitar playing skills and for most part the melodies are good enough to carry despite his weak vocals. In all, an essential record for anyone wondering whether anything truly new can be done with melody drenched guitar pop, find it in your heart to forgive a slightly iffy singer and you could have one of the rock records of the year. At least until the new Future Of The Left album is released. Next Month. It’ll be nice while it lasts.