Most who know me know I’m a sucker for a band with a story, such as the tale of record label woes that have besieged one of my favorite bands, the Wrens. The story of The Exploding Hearts is much more tragic. The band comes from the Portland area, where they were well received and poised for success in the Pacific Northwest and possibly the entire country. Their only released album as a band, Guitar Romantic, was released in March of 2003. Pitchfork reviewer (and lead singer of indie rock band Get Him Eat Him) Matt LeMay heaped a massive amount of praise on the band, giving the record a noteworthy score of 8.8 out of 10.
Their sound can best be described as a blend of 70’s punk and power pop, with such influences as the Buzzcocks, Nick Lowe, and the Clash. I remember reading one review that said that The Exploding Hearts are what the Clash would have sounded like if Mick Jones wrote all of their songs. I don’t know that I totally agree with that assessment, but that’s one perspective. Some of their poppier songs remind me a bit of early Strokes at times. A perfect portrait of their sense of humor and youthful exuberance can be heard in “Sleeping Aides and Razor Blades”.
And here comes the tragic part. In July of 2003, the band was returning to Portland from a gig in San Francisco when their tour van flipped over. Singer Adam Cox, bassist Matt Fitzgerald, and drummer Jeremy Gage were all killed, leaving only guitarist Terry Six and band manager Rachelle Ramos alive. I heard this story before I had ever heard one note of the band’s music, and curiosity led me to seek out their album. To my surprise, they were actually really good, and I could hear an amazing amount of potential in their songs. Guitar Romantic is far from a perfect album. The quality of the recording is less than stellar, and there are a few throwaway songs, but the youthful energy and authenticity of the record made it one that I come back to often. It’s a document of a young band with loads of talent frozen in time, and while questions of what might have been are definitely raised by some of the rough edges and stylistic idiosyncracies of the album, Guitar Romantic stands on its own as a fun record made by a band just having a good time. It rubs off on the listener, and I’m happy to have found them.
Guitar Romantic is available on Amazon and iTunes, and you can also find a posthumously released collection of singles and previously unreleased recordings titled Shattered on those sites. Enjoy.
“Modern Kicks” (skip ahead to 1:08 and ignore the dancing monkey)
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