A popping guitar riff, pulsing bass, coupled with silvery vocals that overlay the track, make “Free” by The Shelter a song to come back to again and again. The Mexican band, formed in January 2020 by three musicians: Elias Gameros (vocals), Javier Orduña (guitar), and Hector Chan (drums), is making waves in the Mexican music scene, being named by Forbes Mexico as one of the top emerging bands for 2020, and their new single does not disappoint.
The musical side of the song centers on the guitar riff. The riff is sparse, it’s clean, and it remains constant throughout the song, creating great contrast when the chord changes and key changes occur. I enjoyed the drum performance from Hector Chan, as the beat is steady but yet not boring, and the bumping bass line gave me a very retro feel. The influence seemed to be very 70s, and the funk undertones were very clear throughout the song. “Free” is broken up into the traditional chorus, lyrics, bridge combination, and the bridge really stood out to me as one of my favorite parts of the song, because the bass picks up the guitar riff. The guitar riff being passed to the bass line was like the musicians passing around the music, which is always cool.
The lyrics of the song are in the style of The Shelter. According to Forbes Mexico, The Shelter is known for following punk’s criticism of the government. For example, The Shelter’s track “This is Not Even Something” makes a stark critique of the Mexican government’s control of the Torreón and Chihuahua regions of Mexico. While “Free” is not as specific in its criticism, the chorus “free, let yourself free, your life’s not what it seems” does seem to resemble some form of protest lyric. One of my few criticisms of this song is the lack of originality in the lyrics. I didn’t feel like a story was told, or that a feeling was described in any way. I think that what makes great songwriting is the communication of emotion, and I am not sure that any emotion was communicated to me through “Free,” or through the lyrics at least. The song also features legendary Mexican rocker Clemente Castillo, who is now based in Austin, Texas. Clemente Castillo is known for being a founding member and singer for the band Jumbo that came to prominence in the late 90s. Including more popular artists on their tracks just speaks to the rising stock of the Shelter.
The funk influenced-punk band The Shelter has released a solid single that definitely gained a new listener. The production is clean, the vocals fit well with the key changes and chord progression, and while the lyrics are not fantastic, they sit nicely over the funk influenced music. I am going to be looking forward to further releases from The Shelter, and to see where their sound goes.