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SHINY TOY GUNS (Buy CDs by this artist)
We Are Pilots (Universal) 2006

Mathematically speaking, Dashboard Confessional + Fischerspooner = Mr. Mister, so it was probably inevitable that the coincidence of emo and new wave revivalism would produce a throwback to the bygone days of the mid-'80s, when critically unloved artists like Animotion, Count Three and Pray-era Berlin and Re-Flex walked the earth. No one you know thinks back with much fondness to bands who learned all the wrong lessons from Duran Duran and Let's Dance, so LA's Shiny Toy Guns deserve either a pat on the back or a kick in the ass for having the nerve to revive the era's bombastic synths, bombasticker drums and bombastickest fashions. Logically, We Are Pilots should be cringe-inducing, but the damn thing insists on being perversely lovable. Blame the fact that nostalgia heals many wounds and it's now safe to admit that that Level 42 song always sounded pretty good on the radio, but this quartet does know a thing or two about writing catchy pop songs. What's more, vocalists Chad Petree and Carah Faye Charnow (who was rumored to be the actual vocalist on Paris Hilton's album, but admits only to doing a guide vocal on a demo) are likable presences, and the band churns out polished hooks with energy and verve. We Are Pilots isn't great art, but it's a fun little throwback to an era rock forgot.

[Brad Reno]