Back in 2011, a band called You Ate My Dog released their debut album Like Torches, an album that almost acted as a precursor to the easycore genre that would explode in only a couple of years’ time, except to say that it flew under the radar would probably overstate how many people actually heard it. Still, despite it being a bit bloated and having a couple of gimmicks, the heart of a great band was evidently there.
Since then, there have been plenty of changes. Not only has Like Torches been promoted to full-blown band moniker, but some of the odder touches of the sound have been smoothened out. And after a debut that once again failed to make any sort of dent in the music-buying public, Shelter sees the Swedes taking another shot at the mainstream with a record heavily indebted to the melodic punk and pop-punk of the mid-2000s.
Apart from some instances that employ a slightly darker, stormier take on the traditional SoCal sound, there’s practically nothing on Shelter that breaks any sort of new ground or moves away from the set mold. That being said, it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyability too much, especially in the opening one-two of Swing By Swing and Coma, a pair of tracks that gallop along with the swell and arena-baiting scale of American Idiot-era Green Day. These moments are never bettered for the duration of the album, but Shelter definitely has its moments. Bit A Bullet and Snowfall Without You are constructed around the earworm melodies and pop sensibilities of Yellowcard in their prime, and I Surrender has a big, explosive chorus that’s hard to ignore when it crashes out of the gates. There’s nothing in the way of innovation here, but the fact that Like Torches have managed to not only distill the past decade-and-a-half of pop-punk into a single album, but also do it well, certainly deserves some credit.
On the flip side, that also means they blindly walk into pop-punk’s most notoriously irksome traps, made all the more annoying because this is the most performative pop-punk album released in a long while, so it’s almost as if such features have to be included. The double-time drums in Walking Home and Skeletons feel out of place even by double-time drums’ standards, while the token acoustic title track rounds the album off on what is assumedly supposed to be a part-Jimmy Eat World, part-Starting Line ballad, but just ends up as a syrupy bore. As strong as the majority is, it does occasionally feel as though Shelter is Like Torches’ attempt at crafting a compilation of the genre’s most overused tropes, and that these weaker, clichéd moments are simply there to round a list off rather than fitting with any discernible flow or pattern.
But when considered as a body of work on the whole, Shelter is decent enough. It’s an example of a band with more competence than greatness at the minute, a band who know what they’re doing and have got the foundations for their own ideas in place, but are yet to really build on those ideas. And really, that’s to be expected. Like Torches are, after all, an ostensibly new band, and the fact that they still gravitate so closely towards their influences shows that. But the fact that they’ve got songs like Swing By Swing and Coma under their belt shows just what they can achieve if they set their minds to it. An album with more songs like that on, and there’ll be plenty of mileage in Like Torches to go on.
For fans of: Green Day, Yellowcard, Billy Talent
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Shelter’ by Like Torches is released on 22nd January on Rude Records.