At first glance, the Exploding Hearts seem like mere revivalists. From the pink and yellow cover to their 1977 looks to their influences, it would be easy to dismiss them. But you need to hold the phone a minute and listen, because the Exploding Hearts are the best punk band to come along in a long time, maybe since the original wave. About those influences, here is a partial list: the early Clash if Mick Jones wrote all the songs and the Only Ones or Buzzcocks at their emotional best, but also classic power pop sounds like a (much) tougher Rubinoos, rock & roll like a tighter and sober New York Dolls, and the lo-fi approach of Billy Childish. Guitar Romantic is an amazingly raw and melodic debut, fully realized and original despite the obvious debt to the punk past. It is difficult to pinpoint just what it is about the band that helps overcome their idol worship. Maybe it is the love and authenticity that they pour into the worship, the raw production that smashes the guitars and bass into a whirling mess of tuneful noise, or the wonderfully tough but tender vocals. Most likely it is the songwriting. Too many bands that seek to re-create a sound or an era don't have the tunes to back it up. Not the Hearts. Every song on Guitar Romantic makes a bid to be the best on the album: "I'm a Pretender" is a jaunty kick in the head, "Sleeping Aides & Razorblades" is an ultra-catchy doo wop-inspired ballad with a brilliant guitar line, "Thorns in Roses" is a rollicking '50s-influenced ballad, "Throwaway Style" melds a lovelorn lyric to a Motown beat (the same one the Strokes heisted for "Last Nite") to great effect. There isn't a weak song here, not a single one that isn't on par with the best punk-pop. If you don't have this album and have even the slightest affinity for poppy punk rock or punky pop/rock, you are missing out on something special.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra