Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Grand notions

Posted By on Wed, Sep 15, 1999 at 12:00 AM

For those Detroit youths who came of age during the Reagan years and found shoegazing and early alt-rock’s oceanic guitar feedback as energizing as the sound of Ford-metal-machine music was for Iggy Pop, the lure of Liberty or Death’s opening salvo – "Where on Earth is Kevin Shields?"– should be enough for at least a few novelty listens.

Luckily, there seems to be more happening with P.S. I Love You than this simple My Bloody Valentine namecheck.

Liberty or Death is a melange of songs culled from post-Majesty Crush side projects headed by vocalist David Stroughter, former frontman for that now-defunct early ’90s bliss-rock outfit. P.S. I Love You has been in existence in one form or another since 1996, but has only recently put together enough steam to release a full-length record and a consistent live lineup. So P.S. I Love You’s future depends largely on whether or not Stroughter and friends can capitalize on the better moments of this at times wonderful (but in the end wonderfully mediocre) long-player.

The album is heavy with great ideas: The impudent opening riff to "Where on Earth … ?," the Shakermaker-esque vocal churn of "No Sharks Allowed," and the Storm In Heaven arrangements of "Unless I See You Again" and "New York," both of which lend the project a sense of beauty. But the songs seem to delve into high school diary material more than once: my first time in New York ("New York"), my first hydroponic experience ("Windmill Friends"), my first love ("P.S. I Love You"). These songs sound more like good demos than the grand statements for which P.S. I Love You strives. All of which makes Stroughter’s sense of urgency sound strained over the spare arrangements, like an ungainly teenager stuck in shoes three sizes too small.

Like Majesty Crush, which released a single on British indie label Ché, P.S. I Love You has kept its connection to the British indie scene by releasing its first 45 ("Where On Earth is Kevin Shields?"/"No Sharks Allowed") on London’s space-edged Rocket Girl label. But the band will need more than indie-cred if it is to live up to the promise offered by Stroughter’s grand mannerisms or the will of the band to remake the world – or just Detroit – in its own out-of-focus image.

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