A little over a year ago, Kevin invited me to do a podcast when he was doing The Capital Revue. On my one and only podcast, I profiled Kingston, Ontario’s PS I Love You, the two-piece garage rock band consisting of Paul Saulnier (vocals, guitar) and Ben Nelson (drums). While the band have been done for producing gritty rock songs with catchy hooks, their third LP, For Those Who Stay, sees the duo incorporate other sounds, including reaching for more anthemic qualities, melodic rock, and even a hint of synth dance pop.
The first two tracks, “In My Mind At Least” and “Advice“ as well as “More of the Same”, follow the path blazed by the band on their first two albums – catchy, garage rock played with a fuzz box and crushing drums. The tracks, as such, succeed due to their simplicity, focusing on Saulnier’s emergence as a bonafide guitar god, Nelson’s ability to crush the drums and pulling back at the right moments, and the duo’s knack for shifting melodies at any moment during a song.
The third song, “Bad Brain Day”, however, sees the twosome enter into new territory, taking a folk-rock approach. There is potential for a great track from the start, but midway it seems to wander aimlessly and ends almost ending abruptly. “Limestone Radio” similarly seems to be scattered. What appears to be an anthemic garage rock tune in the mould of The Men is interrupted during the poppy chorus as Saulnier and Nelson both holler “Limestone Radio”. The pop-rock is further adopted on “Friends Forever”, which was the first single released by the band. Like the aforementioned two tracks, “Friends Forever” falls just short of rising to the occasion, succumbing to the mistake that many musicians’ make by relying on repetitive choruses..
“For Those Who Stay” again has Saulnier and Nelson experimenting with new sounds, as they take an ’80s pop-rock-synth approach. At 7 1/2 minutes, the song is the longest written by PS I Love You and it takes time for it to truly reach its height. And while the prolonged musical interludes, including the last 2+ minutes, seem out of place for the band, the finale, albeit slightly unconventional, is worth waiting to hear. To best way to describe the song, it’s the young duo’s response to My Morning Jacket’s “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Part II”. The final track, “Hoarders”, takes a similar approach, but mixing more of a gritty, garage rock mixed with almost symphonic vocals.
“Afraid of the Light”, which is highly different from past efforts, is arguably the star of the album. It is the one track where everything comes together for the band – from the echoing vocals of both Saulnier and Nelson – to the merger of rock and pop. The track has a Modest Mouse vibe to it with its tempo shifts and building melodies. It’s brilliant in its execution and creativity.
For all it’s stumbles, For Those Who Say is a challenging, ambitious, yet entertaining album. It lacks the cohesiveness of Meet Me at the Muster Station and Death Dreams, but it sees the band pushing the limits and testing where to go next. There are points throughout the album where the band approaches greatness and points that make you yearn for more. It seems like For Those Who Stay is part one of an extensive and expansive journey for Saulnier and Nelson. As Saulnier noted in an interview with Exclaim!, For Those Who Stay wasn’t the album they had intended to produce, but it was the outcome of their studio sessions. What they originally wanted to create has been partially recorded, and it could be released soon in the form of a LP or an EP.
I applaud Saulnier and Nelson for taking risks on For Those Who Stay. It clearly was an opportunity to experiment with new approaches and new sounds, from which they will only build. And if the duo can harness the energy and creativity of “Afraid of the Light” while building on the moments in tracks like “Hoarders” and “Bad Brain Day” on their next album (the rumoured Absent as Saulnier revealed in the Exclaim! interview), then fans will be in for a rousing and potentially groundbreaking record.
“For Those Who Stay”
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