Here’s a prediction: PS I Love You will never fill a stadium. But here’s another: that’s the best news you’ll hear today. Kingston, Ontario’s principal fuzz rockers are classically, perfectly, obstinately a couple of garage rocker kids holding on to the teenage good times. As the archetypcal awkward squad come good, guitarist / singer Paul Saulnier and drummer Benjamin Nelson make introverted, bashful rock, buried in smudge and distortion – but melodic and heartfelt to its core. They were roundly praised for 2010’s Meet Me At The Muster Station (first LP proper, but one in a lengthy EP-led discography) but, rather than seeking ever grander rock to sate their burgeoning fanbase, new album Death Dreams sees a proud continuation of their low-fi, unpolished scrawl.
PS I Love You seem to cling to their youth – musically, emotionally, lyrically – and with it, encourage us to cling to ours. When Saulnier wails on Future Dontcare “I wish this summer/ was like last summer”, it’s all the anguish of diluted dreams slipping away with time. His voice strains with the anxiety of the ageing and PS I Love You lead the resistance of the young. How Do You, and Toronto, are typical here: quickfire punk built of bratty thrash and strangled vocal – simple structures for simpler times . (Not that Saulnier lacks technical ability. Just last week he landed himself in Spin’s 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time. Admittedly he placed 99th. Just one place above, um, Skrillex. But it’s the thought that counts.)
But where Death Dreams is vital and exciting in its adolescence, it also suggests a failure to mature. Saulnier buries his voice in the mix, and rarely offers a potent lead; and the album’s DIY shabbiness can blur whole tracts of the album into formless sludge. It’s retrospective to the point of inertia, and while it’s undoubtedly a more proficient collection than Muster Station, it still suggest an unwillingess to develop further.
And yet they’ve still more to say than their peers. Unlike, say, Yuck, there’s still range here – the riffs, the melody, the sentiment avoids the Englishmen’s 1D, low-fi drudgery. And where Japandroids – that other Canadian DIY duo – are angular, even unapproachable, PS I Love You suggest we’re in it together. “All I ever wanted / Is more than I ever had” sings Saulnier on Red Quarter, seeing, like us all, the need to move on. And while the album’s opening single, Sentimental Dishes, is far from the endgame – its jauntiness an awkward fit for the album’s wider angst – there’s a recognition in its pace, and the broadening ambition of the sound, that PS I Love You may be ready for more. Ready, just nearly, to grow up.