As the name might imply, PS I Love You does “romantic” quite well. (Then again, the moniker might also imply that they’re a terrible romantic comedy or a Plain White T’s side project, but let’s not get sidetracked). However, they don’t do romance with sweeping, dramatic soundscapes; theirs is subtly embedded into a form of rock ‘n’ roll that’s fairly rare. Take “Facelove”, a song that starts with jangling rhythm guitars and cutting guitar solos, eventually meeting up with two unison vocals singing simplistic lyrics about love. It’s romance, but it’s a quiet undercurrent of romance, which is saying a lot for an album that makes you want to turn up the volume.
Paul Saulnier, the band’s multi-instrumentalist and chief songwriter, is the type of musician who can perfectly contrast a powerful droning rhythm guitar with a ripping vocal and soaring guitar solo without making it sound fake or overtly extravagant. It’s an art that very few have mastered– Kurt Vile and J. Mascis come to mind. Mixed with Benjamin Nelson’s powerful drumming, this prowess makes Meet Me at the Muster Station one of the most compelling rock albums of the year so far.
There are trademark rock music staples in here that could have easily been tacky. The masculine/feminine yelps at the beginning of “Meet Me At the Muster Station” scream “Glory Days”. Then there are the building layers of instrumentals in “Facelove”. The vocals keep in unison with the guitar line of “2012”. But none of it feels contrived or derivative. Even when they take moves out of the classic rock playbook, they still sound they’re coming from an entirely authentic point-of-view.
It’s hard to pick a stand out on the album since there’s not a dull moment to be found. Whether it’s the subtle romantic gallop of “Little Spoon”, the earworm riff and unison vocals of “Facelove”, or the quasi-metal gallop of “Breadends”, this album is consistently engaging. Perhaps too consistent — although every song is great, there are some moments toward the end of the record (“Scattered”, in particular) that start to sound a bit like you’ve heard them before. But when every song on the album is solid, that’s not such a bad thing.
Really, this doesn’t sound like a debut album. There’s a maturity and complexity in the simplicity of PS I Love You — it’s a band that sounds like it could have an ocean of work just as great as this release. Meet Me at the Muster Station clocks in under 30 minutes, and every moment is absurdly listenable. This is a band that uses distortion for a slight edge, not to drown the sound. They use volume to hit the songs home, not to smear them in your face. To say the least, this is a rare sort of album– a great rock record without gimmickry. It’s an album worth putting on repeat, and it’s doubtful you’ll notice you’ve been listening to the same 10 songs over and over.