Published on December 13th, 2013 | by Craig Silliphant


The Exploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic


It’s hard to find total originality in contemporary music, when it seems like everything has been done, at least within the scope of the guitar, drums, and bass model (and perhaps throwing in the odd horn, sitar, or Vulcan lyre).  The Internet is awash with bands that are drawing from a mix of influences — “Blur meets Daft PunkNeil Young meets T-RexSlayer meets Raffi!” Sometimes these acts are a watered-down version of these inspirations and sometimes they capture a new blend of sound identity that blows your doors off.  The Exploding Hearts weren’t trying to combine influences per se, but they hit the sonic nail on the head on terms of capturing the sound of the musical zeitgeist of an exact year in punk music — 1977.  The catch?  1977 was three years before the oldest member of the group was born.

Unfortunately, The Exploding Hearts are a sad tale of a band on the rise that was silenced before its time.  In 2003, their album ‘Guitar Romantic’ happened across my path, and it’s still a record I listen to today.  Though they were barely in their 20s, they were revivalists of the late 70s punk sound, harkening back to bands like The Buzzcocks, The Clash, The New York Dolls or even the lo-fi approach of someone like Billy Childish.  ‘Guitar Romantic’ not only sounds like it was recorded in 1977, but even the cover art is in on the gag.  If you happened upon this in a record store and didn’t know any better, you’d think it was from ‘77.

Now, in theory, it’s not really all that hard to capture a punk rock sound, so you might be saying, ‘so what?’  I mean, it’s a genre of music that’s sometimes known for the raw attitude of its icons being more important than having them know how to play their instruments.  The Exploding Hearts had plenty of Johnny Thunderballs, but even more than that, they steamed a good hook.  I would submit that there isn’t a weak song on ‘Guitar Romantic.’  Any one of them could be a hit.  It’s sneering and dirty, but it’s also funny and heartfelt, like the line from the pent up fuck you to an old flame, ‘Sleeping Aides and Razor Blades,’ “I got new posters on my walls and the dog don’t remember your name.”  It’s a middle finger from a jilted lover, but it also creates imagery that’s both humorous and easy to identify.

I alluded to sadness at the start — unfortunately, The Exploding Hearts never got the chance to make a second album, or really exploit the attention they were building.  On July 20th, 2003, the band was headed home to Portland, after playing Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco.  They lost control of the van and three of the four members (Adam Cox, Jeremy Gage, and Matt Fitzgerald, the oldest of whom was 23) were killed, survived by guitarist Terry Six and their manager Rachell Ramos.

I suppose it’s part of the punk mythos to live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse, but one can’t help wonder what trajectory this band would have taken had they been allowed by the cosmos to continue unchecked by the Reaper.  They did release a posthumous album called Shattered’, which was mostly outtakes and b-sides, with some other material they’d been working on, but it feels like the posthumous outtake that it is.  Their rock n’ roll dream was cut short, but in ‘Guitar Romantic,’ they left a solid album in their wake.

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About the Author

is a D-level celebrity with delusions of grandeur. A writer, critic, creative director, editor, broadcaster, and occasional filmmaker, his thoughts have appeared on radio, television, in print, and on the web. He is a juror on the Polaris Music Prize and the Juno Awards. He loves Saskatoon. He has horrible night terrors and apocalyptic dreams.

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