Review: Shiny Toy Guns – III

With its unmatched soaring bombast and new-rawk sensibility Shiny Toy Guns are the quintessential American electronic band. That’s not a dig, one of the things we like most about the band are their unique voice amidst the din. No one else sounds like them and while they clearly show their influences from time to time they are on their island doing their own thing and when that thing works, and the proper balance is achieved, it can be a thing of beauty.

On their last album that sense of balance was knocked askew and the results weren’t pretty. Co-lead vocalist Carah Faye Charnow left the group and the released the viciously uneven Season of Poison, full of derivative rock songs and their electronic identity, so well-earned on debut We Are Pilots, was thrown to the wind. They just weren’t as good at making this new music and while there were a few standouts, the album was a bit of a dud.

Now Charnow has rejoined the band and they’ve made an album that is very much a welcome return to form.

III got off to an encouraging start with teaser track “The Sun”. It harkened back to the earlier, more inspired, and frankly, more fun work. An upbeat, spritely electro pop song. Exactly what the doctor ordered. We’re pleased to report that the balance of the album lives up to this inspired start.

“Somewhere to Hide” is the best song on the album, old school twinkly synths over a retro-melody that feels oddly refreshing while at the same time sounding like it was lifted straight from the mid-80s (complete with auto handclaps!). In fact the 80s is well represented throughout the album. “Speaking Japanese”, another winner, sounds like every other track one might have found on a typical K-tell compilation. There’s a real retro feel here but other songs stand out simply because they’re just really beautifully constructed including pretty ballad, “If I Lost You” that reminds us just how terrific it is to have Charnow back in the fold and the gorgeous duet “Wait For Me” (this band has always excelled at the slow song…). Not everything works, for example, the odd “Fading Listening” takes the 80s throwback a little too seriously and smacks of something you’d hear on an easy-listening FM station circa 1988, and it just doesn’t fly, but as a whole this may well be their strongest effort to date.

Just at a point when it looked like this engine was all out of steam, they’re powered back up and back on track (you want randomly placed train analogies, we got boatloads of em!). It’s great to see, and it’s beyond comforting to have them back where they belong, right in the mix of the most satisfying electronic music released this year…

Watch: Waiting Alone

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2 Responses to “Review: Shiny Toy Guns – III”

  1. Agreed! I thought “Season of Poison” had a few good moments (and one brilliant OTT freakout in the form of “When Did This Storm Begin”), but “III” has more than its share of legitimately great ones. I’m especially smitten by “Somewhere To Hide,” and by “Wait For Me,” an epic centerpiece of a ballad that refuses for almost six full minutes to do what’s expected. Oh, and I have to give a shout-out to the bonus tracks on the deluxe version—including “My Reptile Friend,” the coolest (and sweetest) song about dinosaurs that you’re ever gonna hear.

  2. It’s certainly better than dreadful Season Of Poison and a pleasant surprise after a run of rather unimpressive singles, but it doesn’t fully cut it as a proper comeback after a four year hiatus and a 18-month delay (remember how we were originally promised this in April 2011?). Somewhere To Hide is as good as anything they’ve ever done, Wait For Me & If I Lost You are achingly pretty and there’s a handful of other goodish tracks too, but I miss the sci-fi flavour of the debut and some more uptempo gems. And what’s with their obsession with waiting: Waiting Alone, Wait For Me and The Sun (the chorus of which goes “next time I’ll wait for the sun”. Some fresh lyrical ideas would be much appreciated.

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