Review Summary: PS I Love You make feel-good heavy indie for the feel-bad weird kids, and it sounds fantastic. (8/10)
In a recent interview with music blog The New Music
, Paul Saulnier, the husky, wild-bearded frontman/guitarist of Kingston, Ontario duo PS I Love You describes a “muster station” as a “favorite spot” of his, as it’s “the place on any large boat where people are supposed to gather if the boat is sinking to get on lifeboats.” Looking at that, and considering his band’s name is actually the same as a Hilary Swank romantic comedy, it’s easy to dismiss the pair’s (the second man is drummer Benjamin Nelson) debut full-length Meet Me At The Muster Station
as another morbidly confessional emo trap before ever giving it a spin. To some extent, the potential naysayers have a point; this is an album that explicitly attempts to soundtrack awkward teenage boys’ attempts at getting out whatever it is they want to say (i.e. trying to talk to women). The band’s name is
still PS I Love You, after all.
To dismiss the album for this reason, though, would be a terrible idea, as the pair grabs influences from all across late-80’s to mid-90’s alternative and indie and simply rocks
across 10 wonderful tracks. Take the band’s relatively best-known song, “Facelove”, which speeds into a tight groove, with Saulnier’s dreamy chords meshing beautifully with Nelson’s up-tempo beat, all while the big man yelps in his best Black Francis wail: “Your love is like a naïve dream of mine/Thrown in my face.” The catch here, however, is that the confession lasts for all of one minute; like a salute to those graceless loners for whom this album is made, Saulnier tosses out the words and instead launches into an immense solo, fingertapping and crunching his way as the track rushes into its conclusion.
In “Facelove”, and in many other cases throughout Muster Station
, language fails Saulnier to a point of literally unspeakable desperation and frustration. Yet Saulnier, as the lead, the axe-wielding scribe of noise that he is, frequently harnesses the power his instrument holds, which is to convey the raw emotion and feeling that simple words cannot do for the majority of us. It truly is an exciting notion to hear, even if it isn’t a particularly new one, but altogether contributes to the just how compelling the album can be at it’s best moments.
“Butterflies and Boners” follows this same suit, opening with a swell of feedback and Nelson’s pounding beat, until Saulnier pierces through the foggy open with a heavy riff that crashes along as he wails about how he’s “gonna throw up.” But the vomit that follows couldn’t be any more kickass, as he launches into another guitar epic that’s more Eddie Van Halen than Joey Santiago, tapping and howling at hyper-speed while the track gloriously rages onward. Saulnier has said in other interviews that he was “a bit of a metal-head” growing up, and it shows; his ability to tear a song to shreds and build it back up again with his monster chords and riffage on Muster Station
leads to one of indie-rock’s best lead performances of the year.
While there may be a couple of standout tracks like “Facelove” and “Boners” (awesome), this is an album where all 10 tracks have their moments. Opener “Meet Me At The Muster Station” rides along on a joyous Springsteen style that welcomes hand claps and singing along. “Get Over” moves with a heavy dance-punk swagger, and features another colossal chorus riff reminiscent of a Death from Above 1979 track. “Little Spoon” sees the pair going into Stone Roses mode, and “Breadends” finds heaviness in guitar work and lyrical content, with Saulnier howling “Gimme all the ***ing money” in an act of frustrated catharsis amidst a pounding guitar line.
However, this is definitely an album where some songs are going to click for certain people, while other songs are going to click for others. The myriad obvious influence-ripping cannot be denied; this doesn’t mean Meet Me At The Muster Station
doesn’t kick any less ass, it just means it doesn’t do it in the most original way. Thankfully the album whizzes by at around 30 minutes, but it’s entirely possible to see some skipping to certain tracks and bypassing the less memorable ones, even with the short length. Also, while the instrumental work is to be commended here, and Saulnier’s delivery is effective, listeners looking for deeper lyrical content will be disappointed; “Meet me at the muster station” means “Meet me at the muster station”, and the only discernible “word” in “Cbez” is, well, “Cbez.” Still, this is a fun
record, one to stand and rock with in all its glory; even if the lyrics aren’t necessarily meant to be taken at anything more than face value, the emotion and manner with which they are presented allows them to have a certain undeniable sway over the listener.
PS I Love You could be considered the 2010 version of 2009’s Japandroids; like that Canadian duo, Saulnier and Nelson will hook in listeners with tight songwriting, excellent guitar work (Saulnier’s virtuoso riffage on this record is exceedingly refreshing in an indie-rock scene increasingly devoid of “guitar gods”) and hooks galore. But also like Post-Nothing
, Meet Me At The Muster Station
proves to have more substance than a simple drive down the indie influence highway by having just the right amount of emotion and heartfelt earnestness to go along with its heaviness. It’s surprising that Meet Me At The Muster Station
is only a debut considering how well-constructed it is, yet that surprise can only lead to a promising future for the young band. Here’s to hoping these two start to return on Google faster than the movie in the next few months; they deserve that much.