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THE EXPLODING HEARTS — SHATTERED

An aptly named CD for a promising band with a tragic story

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Rock’s multi-death travel tragedies include the 1959 airplane crash that claimed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, as well as the 1977 plane crash that killed singer Ronnie Van Zant and other Lynyrd Skynyrd members.

Lesser-known acts have lost personnel while on tour, too.

In 1995, two members of For Squirrels were killed in a van accident roughly within a month of Sony releasing the Florida band’s Example CD.

And then there’s The Exploding Hearts. On July 20, 2003, three members of the Oregon-based quartet died after a van accident that occurred while heading home from a gig in San Francisco.

The group had been on tour in support of Guitar Romantic, the first and only Exploding Hearts album — until now. Shattered (Dirtnap Records) is a 16-track, video-enhanced collection containing singles, demos and previously unreleased material, including alternate takes from the Guitar Romantic sessions.

While the group’s look suggested suburban shopping-mall punk, its sound actually walked the line between lo-fi power-pop and garage rock. Bratty vocals and youthful energy are in abundance throughout Shattered, while drum fills and guitar solos are kept to a minimum. The band had a knack for dynamics and tight arrangements. “Shattered (You Left Me),” different versions of which open and close the CD, has a brief bridge that arrives at just the right time, yet still comes as a surprise. The use of keyboards on several tracks adds color to the two-guitar attack.

Thematically, the Exploding Hearts never delve too deep, and they actually go to the other end of the intellectual spectrum with a cover of “Sniffin’ Glue,” a goofy song by the band FU2 that borrows a page from the Ramones playbook. Coincidentally, the Exploding Hearts and Ramones now only have one core member from their respective classic lineups still alive. And while the Exploding Hearts never had the chance to have a sustained career like Joey Ramone and company, they did make the most of their abilities during their brief time together.

— By Chris M. Junior