Saturday, September 29, 2007

Concert Review: Shiny Toy Guns at the Windjammer

I had a religious experience Tuesday night. I entered the venue a casual fan and exited a full-fledged convert to the church of Shiny Toy Guns.

The band was founded in 2002 by Jeremy Dawson (bass and synths) and Chad Petree (vocals/guitar), with Carah Faye (vocals/synths/bass) and Mikey Martin (drums) joining in 2004. The band quickly gained popularity locally and through their MySpace site. In early 2005, they independently released their first album We Are Pilots. They began to tour extensively, and in June 2006 they signed to Universal Records. The re-released a finalized copy of We Are Pilots in late fall 2006. And as their website states, they’ve been “on tour forever”.

Allow me to preface a bit by saying it was Karma that intervened on my behalf and allowed me to even see the show in the first place. Bands that I like don’t exactly play Charleston on a weekly basis. Seldom do they venture closer than Atlanta or Orlando, and if they do it’s usually Charlotte. I had originally wanted to go see Shiny Toy Guns at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, playing with Blue October and Yellowcard last Friday night. However, I work late on Friday nights, and being a responsible adult human with a mortgage and car payment is a bitch. Needless to say, seeing the show was out of the question. By sheer blind luck I caught the tail end of a radio ad for Shiny Toy Guns playing at the Windjammer on Isle of Palms and immediately made a mental note to look it up. Sure enough, it was on Tuesday, my day off, and it was gonna be a FREE show. Whoo hoo! I was to be rewarded for my suffering after all.

Oddly enough, in my seven years of living here in the Lowcountry, I’d never been inside the Windjammer before. Upon entering I was quite surprised at how compact it is, which meant that barring any sudden surge of bodies, we’d be a mere couple feet from the band. BONUS!

After about 60 seconds in the place I took a better look at the guy standing in front of me at the bar & recognized the tattoo on his forearm. Lo & behold, it was none other than Chad. Very cool. He was kind enough to take a picture with me (which I accidentally deleted, like a total dumbass) and we chatted for a couple minutes. He was very personable and genuine, and radiated ZERO pompousness or swelled-head attitude. Here I was just casually chatting with a guy that I listen to on the radio and see on TV, like two regular Joes. Both Jeremy and Mikey were also wandering the venue, checking equiptment and saying hi to people. I didn't see Carah before the show except for the occasional glimpse from the upstairs waiting area, but during the show she interacted with all of us n the front row. I’ve caught more loftiness from certain local minor-league sports figures that I’ve encountered than all four of these genuine rock stars combined. It was damned refreshing.

The show itself was pure energy, despite Chad’s bronchitis and a tour schedule that saw the band go from Myrtle Beach to Seattle to Virginia to Charleston in a span from Friday night to Tuesday. The acoustics at the ‘Jammer made it a little hard at times to pick out all the words, and admittedly I only knew a few of the songs at first, but every song sounded great. Dancefloor anthem “Le Disko”, currently heard in the new Motorola RAZR commercial, was a little less electronic and a little thrashier live, with Carah’s half-growled, half-purred vocals carrying raw power that the crowd fed off of. It’s impossible to stand still at a Shiny Toy Guns show.

A song I’d never heard before, the gorgeous track “Rocketship”, is getting constant play on my MP3 player now, and the show closer was an incredible performance of the current single “You Are The One”, which has been the song on my MySpace page for about the last month or so. But out of a sense of sentimentality, I think the highlight of the set list was a special treat for me, a killer cover of “Stripped”, originally done by my all-time favorite band, Depeche Mode. Shinys, you did the Mode proud. It was amazing.

All too soon it was over, and the band was gracious enough to hang out afterwards to take pictures and sign autographs; again, very cool of them to do so. If not for the hour and a half drive home and having to work the next day, we would have stayed awhile and gotten more pictures. Instead, it was out into the falling drizzle with my faith renewed in the fact that there are still good bands out there left for me to discover, and with the knowledge that with their tour schedule, there’s a good chance that I’ll get to see Shiny Toy Guns again soon.


jms1 said...

Well, sir, it's rare for you to lead me wrong about music- you know I'm not into the harder-edge stuff (I have Cocteau Twins on my normal playlist, which should tell you something) but over time even something like KMFDM can grow on a guy.

These guys... they won't take long.

The iTunes store had their first album "We Are Pilots" for $8, and the "Stripped" single for $2... so I went ahead and risked the $10 on your say-so, and I now have both of them. It's funny, the album has both "Explicit" and "Clean" versions, although there's only one "bad word" on the whole album. (Damned censors... they need to worry about their own lives instead of trying to impose their morals on the entire world... but that's a discussion for some other time.)

The single, I can do a full review of... "Stripped" is, like you said, a cover of dM's classic song. The song "Stripped" itself, very well done- I'm a fan of covers, especially covers done in different musical styles from the original versions (shades of marching through Market Square singing "Nazi Punks Fsck Off" in Fred Schneider's voice.) I really like how they use the two "lead" voices, both male and female- it's an interesting effect, and the voices do sound good together.

The other song is a cover of Sinéad O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U"... I've tried, and I just can't get into it. Just when you get used to one beat and one kind of music, it totally changes to something totally different- and it never really stays with one kind of music long enough for it to grow on me.

As for the album... I haven't really listened to it enough for a detailed review, but a few of the songs have already "grabbed" me enough that I find them running through my head while I'm working on other things.

The first track, "You Are The One", starts off with a strong synth line (you know, something you find yourself poking out when you go past the keyboards at Best Buy) much like Erasure's "Sunday Girl", and I think that's what grabbed me about it. It's a good into to what the Shinys are all about- Chad and Carah passing the vocal duties back and forth to each other within the same song, the ever-present synth line, and of course the "just plain rocking" factor.

The second track, "Le Disko", I vaguely remember hearing before, probably as part of the Motorola Razr commercial (I don't watch a whole lot of TV but apparently I must have seen it once.) Strong bass line, lots of synth, and again Carah's vocals- there's just something about the sound of a female "rocking out hard" that I think is cool.

Then there's "Don't Cry Out". Still a rockin' track, but not as hard-edged as most of the other songs. I think the two things I really like about it are that this song has a heavier synth presence than the others, and it sounds like they did some kind of processing on Carah's voice for the chorus- wow. "Ten nine eight and I'm breaking away, I'm all dressed up and I'm ready to play"...

I'm sure a few of the other songs will reach out and grab me over the next month or two as well, the entire album and "Stripped" are already in my regular "background music while working" playlist.

The one thing I find distressing is that they signed with Universal. Universal has a history of milking young artists for all they're worth and then dumping them when their contract is up- literally leaving them up to their eyeballs in debt, without having made any real take-home money. I suspect these guys will end up in the same situation, however they do have enough talent and are making enough of a name for themselves that if they were to sign with an honest label, or start doing their own production, they would probably do much better (in terms of bringing in cash, at least... musically these guys are definitely going places.)

Sabrina said...

Shiny Toy Guns RIPPED OFF the 'Stripped' song (which is a Depeche Mode cover) arrangement concept and style from BRAIN CLAW. Brain Claw had recorded and released STRIPPED way before Shiny Toy Guns recorded and released they're ripped off version. And, the 'You Are The One' song by Shiny Toy Guns was originally a song called 'NEO' that was used in GRAND THEFT AUTO III, the band changed the song somewhat and renamed it THE ONE, then they ripped off other ideas from other artists and again reworked the song and renamed it 'YOU ARE THE ONE' - THE ONE song was originally written by someone else with Jeremy Dawson (search through the USPTO.ORG site (US copyright office - you'll also find their REAL AGES - Jeremy and Chad are in their mid 30's but they LIE about their ages in interviews) search for Jeremy Dawson, Gregori Chad Petree, and the song titles, as well as the SHINY TOY GUNS band name.) THe other writer for the song YOU ARE THE ONE (NEO), doesn't get any writting credit on their WE ARE PILOTS CD! Plus I found out that Shiny Toy Guns had another female singer BEFORE Carah Faye Charnow, yet they never mention this fact in any interviews or anywhere/any time! I wonder what happened to her??? The 'Starts With One' song by Shiny Toy Guns was originally recorded by DANGEROUS INSECTS band. Another reworked, re-arranged song covered by Shiny Toy Guns. I noticed that most of the songs released by Shiny Toy Guns are not songs that the band created as a band, seems all the songs are from sources prior to the band members getting together in 2004 as Shiny Toy Guns with Jeremy Dawson, Gregori Chad Petree, Carah Faye Charnow, Mikey Martin. Plus, Jeremy Dawson started playing BASS in 2006, he hadn't played before. Carah Faye Charnow learned to play synth while on the road for a few of the Shiny Toy Guns songs, she had never played synths before 2006, and she'd never played BASS before 2006 either. Carah Faye Charnow learned to play the BASS part for Rainy Monday because they didn't want her on stage just standing there doing nothing during the live performances for the song (Chad Petree sings solo lead on that song) It seems that Shiny Toy Guns are not all that appears to the public, and almost every interview with the band members that Ive come across conflicts with what they have said in previous interviews. They say whatever will suit their agenda for the day! My friends and I have lost interest in Shiny Toy Guns and their THIRD version of WE ARE PILOTS. It appears that their main fan base these days is screaming 14year old girls who don't know any better. Shiny Toy Guns are 'selling out' every chance they get with placement of the songs from We Are Pilots in any commercial or TV program or ANYWHERE for that matter that will take them. The band is one big sell-out.

Anonymous said...

not that i am here to argue...

the cover version of stripped was not ripped off. at all. who is brain claw? i must hear his version.

and what is wrong with reinventing music, songs, albums, looks, sounds?
isn't that what makes music more interesting anyway? NEO was written by chad and jeremy, (and maybe chad's brother steve... take note: he writes with stg also) and if they used any of the parts in that song in another song so freaking what...its thier song.

the first singer in the band was only in the band for maybe 6 months and things didn't work what. this happens alot in many bands.

Jeremy is 31 and Chad is 29.

there are so many wrong things stated in the above comment that i felt compelled to dispute them, but i give up.

if you don't like the music that is cool. maybe you got your heart broken by someone in the band, maybe not.

either way, its not very nice to tell lies to defend your own opinion.

hasta luego

Emily B Petree said...

i hope this isnt the sabrina i think it is.