Tommy Shaw

Girls With Guns

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In 1984, Styx was just a few years removed from one of their most popular records, the dystopian fantasia Kilroy Was Here, but on Girls with Guns, Shaw doesn't spend much time with the arena rock and balladry that helped make that confused concept album a hit. Instead, he dives headfirst into the propulsive pop of MTV, opting for maximized synthesizers at every chance. Girls with Guns may have been recorded in Chicago, but every element reeks of Los Angeles in the '80s. Everything on the record is overblown, whether it's the frenetic title track — its sliding synth hook nearly overshadowed by Shaw's yelp -- or the power ballad "Lonely School," a song designed for slow dances at homecoming. Shaw deliberately aims for MTV play or, failing that, soundtrack placement (the moody "Kiss Me Hello" sounds as if it was destined for William Friedkin's To Live & Die in L.A.). Although it can sometimes be fatiguing, in no small part because the stainless settings put Shaw's vocals into sharp relief, this shameless new wave arena rock has its charm because it evokes its era so effortlessly and unwittingly.

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