Review: PS I Love You + Army Girls @ Maverick’s (08/06/12)

PS I Love You

When I heard that PS I Love You was making a stop in Ottawa, I was determined to check them out and see how good they are live. I got the feeling that they would be one of those bands who would surpass their album sound with a live manifestation of their material. With their 2010 debut Meet Me at the Muster Station garnering attention and acclaim (not to mention a place for them on the 2011 Polaris Prize Long List), Paul Saulnier and Benjamin Nelson are on a worldwide mission to top that with last month’s release of their new LP Death Dreams. This album has proven to be a massive success so far, providing listeners with both experimental aspects combined with the style that most of us grew to love on Muster Station. But anyway, this isn’t an album review so my suggestion is if you enjoyed Muster Station and are into the garage-rock sound then you have to check out Death Dreams.

So last night PS I Love You played at Maverick’s alongside Try Harder & Army Girls. The night started out a little rough as my friend/photographer lost his wallet (still yet to be found), thus causing us to miss Try Harder. I saw Ming of the Photogmusic blog between sets and he said it was great, so it’s too bad we missed them but sometimes these things are out of your control.

Army Girls

Army Girls definitely knew what they are doing, even though lead vocalist Carmen Elle being admittedly nervous before the set. Each having been in a number of bands before their current one, as well as collaborating with Ben Cook (Fucked Up producer), their spot as a fixture on the Toronto DIY scene is well-deserved. The duo seems to be an inevitable pairing, combining Andy Smith’s dynamic and powerful drums with Carmen’s attitude and rawness. They have done what many other up-and-coming DIY artists have, pulling together all different aspects of their musical inspirations and styles to make music that won’t be forced into any specific genre or category. They began playing as people were still making their way into the venue, so the crowd was still a little quiet and reserved. Except for that one guy who kept yelling in Carmen’s left ear. However, once they started playing the energy level became noticeably higher. Her comfort with the fretboard and laid back demeanor gave the impression of “I’m a bad ass and I’m going to make you love our music”, the same kind of edge you might expect from The Kills. Although the vocals and higher guitar tones were difficult to make out sometimes (by no fault of their own), songs such as ‘End of Days’ and ‘White Towel’ really set the tone for the night as Carmen seemed to let loose throughout the latter portion of the set. I was really happy I got to see Army Girls perform, especially since I was still kicking myself for missing Try Harder. I get the feeling they will continue to go on doing great things, and hope that they come back to Ottawa soon.

Check out a great Blog T.O. interview with Army Girls here.

When it was time for PS I Love You to take the stage, Maverick’s had filled out a bit more. After a 10-minute wait for a piece of equipment, the band cranked the volume and began to play what would turn out to be a powerful set through and through. What originally attracted me to PS I Love You was some similarities with the band Fucked Up with respect to the style and composition of their music. There is an unmistakable punk aspect at the core of both of these bands, but each has transformed their music into something more. The lead guitar punches out arpeggios and riffs that mesh so well with the rhythm and drums, not to mention the vocals that are anything but ordinary. What I also found funny is last summer I could not stop listening to David Comes To Life by Fucked Up, and songs like Queen of Hearts. Fast forward to this summer and I can’t stop listening to Death Dreams, particularly the songs Princess TowersDon’t Go and First Contact. There are so many good reasons why Fucked Up won the Polaris Prize in 2009, I see no reason why PS I Love You wouldn’t be a contender this year.

Seeing Paul Saulnier showcase his guitar talents on stage live was a treat. No wonder he was voted #99 in SPIN Magazine’s Top 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. His style is really unique, making it look easy to do tricks on the upper frets and sing at the same time. His work with the double-necked guitar is masterful. The duo is now a trio, as they added instrumentalist and van-driver extraordinaire Tim Bruton. It seems as though their relentless touring schedule over the past couple years is paying off, as each song was played with perfection and its own complexity. Drummer Benjamin Nelson was in a percussive trance state throughout the show and carried Paul’s melodies to the audience all night long. They ended the set with First Contact, which is probably my favourite off the new album. The show was, as expected, amazing. One of the only downfalls was that my friends and I probably have permanent hearing damage. I suppose I can forgive them for this, and maybe I’ll be smart enough to buy $1 earplugs at the door next time.

Check out this performance of ‘Don’t Go’ at Studio 211 Session for CBC Radio 2’s Drive: