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The Oil Slick: Celebrating the Exploding Hearts' 'Guitar Romantic' 10 Years Later

I had never heard of the Exploding Hearts until I stumbled onto this article, which contrasts (very favorably, I might add) their debut album with Jack and Meg's seminal Elephant.

If you don't feel like clicking on the link, the Exploding Hearts were a punk/pop/garage rock band from Portland. They dressed weird, started fights and generally did everything respectable young punks typically do to raise hell. They also swaggered like the Ramones and had the chops to back it up. By all accounts, the group was one to watch.

Why don't you know about them? On their way back from a show in San Francisco, their van rolled over and killed three band members.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, people began to recognize the strengths of the band. Their only album, Guitar Romantic, has been recognized as a masterpiece, with Pitchfork naming it in their top 200 albums of the 2000s and AllMusic giving it 4.5/5 stars.

But how does the album fare 10 years later?

From the first notes of the opener, "Modern Kicks," you can tell the Exploding Hearts tapped into something special for this 28-minute buzz saw of pop/punk/garage fusion. Guitar Romantic is spectacular.

A lean piece of instrumental mastery and jagged hooks, all wrapped up in heavily Ramones-influenced vocals, this is the sonic equivalent of a muscle car. The guitars are fuzzed-out like they're coming at you behind layers of insulation, and the short length leaves you wanting more.

These guys weren't given the chance to record an encore, but they made one hell of an album before they left. Guitar Romantic is a fine piece of straight-edge pop that still sounds raw, hurt and rebellious 10 years later.

It's an album that shouldn't be missed — one that has aged beautifully.

John Grimley writes The Oil Slick garage rock blog for

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