music / Reviews

PS I Love You – Death Dreams Review

May 15, 2012 | Posted by C.A. Bell

Release Date: May 8, 2012
Running Time: 40:25
Label: Paper Bag Records
Genre: Noise Rock
Key Tracks:
“First Contact”

Hailing from Kingston, Ontario, Canada, noise pop duo PS I Love You formed in 2006 as an outlet for songwriter Paul Saulnier. Originally writing songs on guitar, pedal organ, and a Casio keyboard, Saulnier eventually made a rhythmic upgrade, recruiting drummer Benjamin Nelson to replace his less than trusty keyboard on percussion. Together, the pair created a manic sound that’s atmospheric while remaining almost relentlessly bright, allowing waves of melody to force their way through dense layers of reverb and rumbling organ. PS I Love You released a handful of singles before making their full-length debut in 2010 with Meet Me at the Muster Station, released on Paper Bag Records. Their follow-up, Death Dreams, is chalk-full of amazingly interesting arrangements and guitar work from Saulnier that is nothing short of beautiful. Of course, to truly enjoy it you’ll have to get past Saulnier’s Ian Curtis meets Gordon Gano vocal style (think something like Jesus Lizard’s David Yow or Kurt Cobain in his spunkier moments and you’ll be in the ballpark). Death Dreams is one of those records that I can tell ahead of time is going to receive a lot of critical attention. It is interesting to say the least, but I’m not so sure there is anything here (save the final fifteen minutes of the record) that we haven’t heard before.

The songs here channel a much prettier version of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, but with a constant distraction from Saulnier’s chaotic screeching. I don’t think it works very well on the album’s first half as I can’t do anything but try to figure out what the hell he is on about during tracks like “Don’t Go”. That song would have been an otherwise beautiful, borderline jangle pop anthem. Saulnier uses has the ability to use his voice alternately as an additional instrument or a blunt force weapon. When he is working with the melody, it can be breathtaking. When he works against it, the term ‘nails on a chalk board’ come to mind. Saulnier’s vocal amps up the orchestrated chaos of “Toronto” and especially the album’s two closing tracks, “Saskatoon” and “First Contact”. It is in these final two tracks that I think the duo truly hit their sweet spot, settling in between the unruly noise and enchanting melody. Here they explore new territory and it is completely satisfying. On “First Contact”, Saulnier’s guitar work almost channels Phily Lynott. That’s right, I just dropped a Thin Lizzy reference. You gotta problem with that? Once getting to the two song finale, it seems like the rest of Death Dreams is little more than filler. There is plenty of fun to be had with the rest. I’m sure “Princess Tower” will please many a fan of American Underground groups. What I take issue with is two clearly talented musicians, who obviously have the will to make something new, just barely missing their mark. They spend just a little bit too much time wallowing in the noise, and not enough exploring a melodic side that makes them truly unique. I want these guys to make an entire album of “Saskatoon”. Until then, it’s all just yelling. Good yelling, but yelling nonetheless.

Purchase PS I Love You’s Death Dreams

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The 411: Beware, you are going to be hearing a lot about PS I Love You in the next few months. In truth, there's only about ten minutes of music that you haven't heard before. Fans of the Pixies or Sonic Youth will absolutely find a lot to love in this group, but I wish they had spent more time evolving their own sound.
Final Score:  7.2   [ Good ]  legend

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C.A. Bell
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