The Shelters – The Shelters
Sorry, but I’m not buying the hype about Los Angeles based band, The Shelters. The (I think) prefab story is that Tom Petty discovered The Shelters playing in some L.A. dive in 2014, then invited a couple of members of the band to accompany him (and the Heartbreakers, of course) on the recent Hypnotic Eye album, and, finally, produced their first EP and subsequent LP debut.
There was also the story about how Kings of Leon were originally the backup band for their father, an itinerant Pentecostal preacher before relocating to Nashville to play The Devil’s Music. And then there’s the one about how impresario Don Kirshner discovered The Archies. (The Archies were a prefab, cartoon band. Kings of Leon are a prefab, cartoon band. And one might see parallels among all three bands. I digress.)
Indeed, there are other corollaries to be made. The Shelters are somewhat analogous to what The Black Crowes were doing in the ’90s and to what almost all of the “The” bands (The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines and, rather incongruously, Jet) were doing in the early oughts – which was to repackage classic rock with whatever postmodernist trappings were stylish at the time to reap filthy lucre. I’m totally down with all of this. Send in the clowns. It sure beats working.
Anyway, let’s get back to The Shelters. I’m thinking it’s the rare occasion indeed when Tom Petty goes to some L.A. dive and just so happens to, ugh, “discover” a band. To be “discovered,” one must be connected. Still, the “discovery” narrative is cute enough. I mean, what the hell. It’s all prefab and who gives a fuck? So, just for the hell of it, I’ll suspend my disbelief(s) about The Shelters and consider the music itself.
The Shelters’ eponymous long-player is actually good. Here we have 11 short, sharp and original-enough songs that would work great as summer rock radio singles or (better yet these days, it seems) that could be excerpted into brief sonic snippets for use as advertising jingles. This is overtly commercial fare, it’s catchy, and, baby I’m a capitalist too. Oh yeah, the album also includes a mostly acoustic cover of The Kinks’ “Nothin’ In The World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl” that’s a little too obvious and is oddly sequenced fourth among the album’s total of 12 tracks. And Petty is listed first among the four producers on the liner notes. So he probably dropped by the studio and smoked a joint with the boys a couple-three times as they produced this opus.
Here we have a simulacrum of ’60s jangle pop referencing (much in the same way that Petty’s early material did) The Beatles, Byrds and CCR. The music is minimalistic and memorable, rarely featuring more than three riffs in a single, three-minute song. This is confection. There is nothing (not a goddamned thing – really) aesthetically “wrong” with any of this.
Still, I find myself wondering how much staying power The Shelters will have. It’s certainly refreshing to see a stylishly-coiffed young band that actually plays guitars and does not use programmed beats. This is pure pop for now people, I guess. The question is, when is “now?” Good luck to ’em.