The turn of the century was heady times.
The thought of how an underground power/pop/punk band should exist in the aftermath of the Green Day Nineties was a proposal that hung heavy with apprehension, confusion and bewilderment. While a difficult construct to navigate, this is the unlikely Portland, Oregon setting we see the Exploding Hearts erupt from.
Drawing spiritual inspiration from the likes of the Buzzcocks, Undertones, and Nick Lowe, the attitude and implied delinquency of the Exploding Hearts was more in line with that of au courant Naughties Warped Tour line-ups. The band also considered themselves peers with the scuzzier side of “The” rock bands at the top of the 2000s. The intersection between Detroit garage punk, Goner Records and the shelves at Hot Topic is a seldom tread land, but it was fertile with potential.
With ten undeniable songs clocking in at just 28 minutes, the Hearts’ indisputably essential Guitar Romantic operated as the punk rock equivalent of Ernest Hemingway’s writing: Nothing extraneous, simple, straightforward, to the point, deserving of no additional flourish or accoutrement, with every creative decision pushing forward the work as a whole. Arguably, perfect.
The album immediately felt strong. It felt classic. It felt…destined for bigger things.
Yet barely three months after its domestic release, with momentum building and Lookout! Records sniffing around, band members Jeremy Gage, Adam Cox and Matt Fitzgerald, all barely in their twenties, would die in a tragic van accident that ended the band.
The intervening two decades has found Guitar Romantic bubble up from a below-the-radar cult classic to a genuinely acknowledged and appreciated touchstone of its time. As years have carried on with the album rightfully landing on countless “Best of” lists, this record is somehow still ascending and growing.
With that in mind, the passing of Guitar Romantic co-writer “King” Louie Bankston in 2022 served as inspiration for Six to place the album with an appropriate and caring long-term home after years of planning to self-release. Six approached only one label – Third Man Records – who immediately agreed to take up the mantle of the record that was near and dear to their collective hearts.
Guitar Romantic (Expanded & Remastered) doesn’t just present the album with a sharp, spiffed up remastering. It also found original album producer Pat Kearns spinning the old reel to reel and archived DAT tapes for the first time in twenty years. This enabled Six to drop in nuggets like little snippets of pre-and-post-take studio dialogue amongst band members, adding audible life to a record that for too long has been overly-associated with death.
If that weren’t enough, the remastering uncovered the previously forgotten organ-heavy “King Louie Mix” of the fan favorite “I’m A Pretender.” Even more intriguing was the discovery of a completely unheard take of “So Bored”, previously not even known to have been recorded at the Guitar Romantic sessions. Of most excitement though is a remastered version of “Busy Signals” (a song originally released on a small-quantity 7-inch in January 2003).
All of these songs are included here, housed in a beautiful gatefold packaging and still all fitting on a single LP.
With plans to play a handful of select tribute shows across the US to honor the Guitar Romantic material, Terry Six continues to carry the torch for the Exploding Hearts and the countless fans who count this album as a quintessential touchstone.