The Exploding Hearts: Guitar Romantic (2003)

Guitar Romantic is one of the best albums to come out of the 1977 UK punk scene, aside from it being released by a Portland band in 2003.  And, ok, it sounds like some kids discovered the Clash and the Buzzcocks and the Undertones about 25 years too late and tried to do it themselves... but, fuck it, they did it really well.  I mean, really, really well.

I didn't discover these guys until after their truly tragic demise (3 of the band's members were killed in a car crash following a 2003 concert, not long after the release of their sole proper album).  And I was shocked this had escaped my notice at the time, 'cuz damn it's a great album.  Retro-punk, sure, but with a bouncy vein of power pop and some absolutely killer hooks.

Lead-off track and single "Modern Kicks" is just phenomenal, one of the most perfectly constructed riffs of the past 20 years, slightly snotty vocals that really do make it sound like a Clash or Buzzcocks b-side.  The next track, "I'm A Pretender," is every bit as good, punky power pop, more Mick Jones than Joe Strummer.  And there's plenty of other winners: the Undertones-reminiscent "Thorns In Roses," the jangly pop of "Sleeping Aides and Razorblades," the rockabilly-infused "Boulevard Trash."  But, really, it's 10 songs, 30 minutes of joyous sing-along youthful punk energy, and just relentlessly fun.

(A second album of leftovers, Shattered, was posthumously released; it's less stunning than the debut, but still worth a listen.)

Here's a "Modern Kicks" audio rip:
Here's a live (albeit bootleg quality) take on "Modern Kicks" from their final show:
...and "I'm A Pretender" from the same show: