The Shelters

The Shelters

Warner Brothers, 2016

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Los Angeles quartet The Shelters join a number of fellow travelers over the past decade or so—Jet, the Redwalls, Tinted Windows, and the Black Keys, to name a few—who have not so much recycled as recast core elements of classic big-guitars-and-a-backbeat rock and roll, finding new inspiration in sounds that are immediately familiar to listeners of a certain age.

Maybe the most unusual thing about The Shelters, other than the fact that they’re very, very good at producing a sound that draws inspiration in equal parts from late-’60s Beatles, early-’70s glam-rock, and late-’70s proto-punk club rock, is that these young padowans earned the attention of their very own Obi-Wan Kenobi. Co-producer-slash-Jedi master Tom Petty was impressed enough with what he heard initially to hand the keys to his home studio to the band—Chase Simpson (vocals, guitars, keys), Josh Jove (vocals, guitars, keys, bass) and Sebastian Harris (drums), since augmented by Jacob Pillot on bass—and set them loose.

It takes no time at all to appreciate why; opener and first single “Rebel Heart” sounds like nothing so much as classic TP, with Simpson’s 12-string Rickenbacker leads fuel-injected by Jove’s thundering rhythm guitar while Harris drives the beat home. When Petty’s harmony vocals kick in on the first chorus, they sound perfectly at home on this virtual sequel to “American Girl,” which even throws in a direct quote from Petty’s 1976 debut (“too much ain’t enough”) on the bridge.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Simpson and Jove are terrific musical complements to one another, harmonizing often while trading lead vocals and guitars. As the fat, chunky leads and driving rhythms of “Birdwatching” take over your speakers, you’re reminded that there’s nothing especially complicated about this kind of music; that’s the beauty of it. It’s straight-up verse-chorus-verse guitar rock, but with a dark edge, full of throaty Fenders and Ricks delivering catchy hooks through Marshall stacks, with a certain greasy-LA-club cool infusing every note of tunes like “Liar,” which adds a glammy fuzz to the guitars and echo to the vocals.

After a brief interlude for a sharp yet tender acoustic cover of the Kinks’ “Nothin’ In The World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ’Bout That Girl,” the boys are back at it as Jove steps out front for a pair of songs that epitomize that distinctly LA brand of glam gloom. First the jangly “Surely Burn” takes you for a call-and-answer ride through the SoCal night; then “The Ghost Is Gone” mixes and matches influences, alternating Doorsy verses—cymbal-heavy, smoky and mysterious as Jove intones lines like “We always try to take over things we cannot control”—with apocalyptic fuzz-guitar breakdowns.

“Gold” sounds like a lost Zombies number re-recorded by Jeff Lynne, featuring falsetto, acoustic and 12-string electric with heavy rhythm strums over trashy drums. “Never Look Behind Ya” adds the Ramones to the band’s menu of influences, a full-tilt rocker with close-miked vocals over a slashing, repeating riff. In the final third, the Shelters deliver nods to late ’60s psychedelia (the dreamy, echoey “Fortune Teller” and the similar, heavier “Born To Fly”) and another Lynne-esque number (the sing-songy “Dandelion Ridge”) before putting an exclamation point on the proceedings with dark, dirty, bluesy closer “Down.” (The latter’s smoldering verses—complete with moody Hammond accents—surely owe a debt to Petty’s own “Breakdown.”)

The fact that the Shelters wear their influences on their sleeves may have helped them attract Petty’s attention, but it’s only part of the story here. Sharp, creative songwriting, excellent performances, and a big, hooky sound that sticks with you—what more could you ask for? The Force is strong with this promising young quartet. 

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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