When the tourvan carrying the Portland, Oregon-based power pop/punk band the Exploding Hearts crashed on July 20, 2003, killing Adam Cox, Jeremy Gage and Matt Fitzgerald, it abruptly and tragically cut short the chapter on one of the most exciting and promising 21st century American rock bands. It’s no hyperbole to call their debut (and only) album, Guitar Romantic the decade’s only album that may have come closest to the Platonic ideal of what a Class of ‘77 power pop/punk album should sound like—and all the more impressive considering none of the Hearts were even alive in 1977.
That brings us to Shattered, which collects all the Hearts’ loose singles, demos and compilation contributions on one disc. Half the disc is given to demos that closely align with their “official” counterparts on Guitar Romantic (save for a slowed down, revealing take on “Modern Kicks”); the remaining tracks are every bit the equal of the album proper’s cuts. Whether it’s the near-perfect “(Making) Teenage Faces”, the guttersnipe “Shattered (You Left Me)” or a choice Paul Collins’ Beat cover, “Walking Out on Love”, these guys never cut a bad song. They never had a chance to. A necessary, bittersweet compilation. (The Shattered disc also contains bonus video footage of the band, playing a live show at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill three days before the van crash. It’s almost too sad and ominous to watch.
Listen to “(Making) Teenage Faces”