A “supergroup” made up of ’80s sidemen, The Empty Hearts consist of southpaw guitarist Elliot Easton (The Cars), drummer Clem Burke (Blondie), vocalist/strummer Wally Palmar (The Romantics), and bassist Andy Babiuk (The Chesterfield Kings), with late keyboardist Ian McLagan (Small Faces) tickling the ivories on the handful of tracks that require them. Their self-titled debut was produced by veteran boardman Ed Stasium, who efficiently coaxed the ensemble through many of these tunes in a single take, mimicking the studio habit of one of his most famous clients, The Ramones.
The Empty Hearts gets off to a raging start with “90 Miles an Hour Down a Dead End Street,” on which each member of the star-studded company seems to be trying to play harder, faster, and louder than his band-mates, all at the same time, threatening a pileup as devastating as that which the song’s title portends. Their pace eases back a little for “I Don’t Want Your Love (If You Don’t Want Me)” which, after a quiet little guitar figure at its initial intro, quickly morphs into what could pass for a newly minted Gary Glitter stadium stomper. The Hearts let their telltale influences go flying past like so many roadside billboards, but their most obvious inspiration is The Who, whose phrasing and fireworks they gleefully ape on tunes such as “(I See) No Way Out” and “Loud and Clear.”
However, the best of this whole bunch is “I Found You Again,” a country-fried pedal steel pumper which tips a ten gallon hat to Gram Parsons and ends up sounding like a great lost track from The Byrds’ Sweethearts of the Rodeo. Its presence here is as incongruous and startling as “Faraway Eyes” on the Stones’ Some Girls. Competing with it for the title of this album’s least representative track is “Fill an Empty Heart,” a quiet and moderately paced jewel, awash in minor chords, which evokes the best work of Tom Petty. Despite a wee bit of an identity crisis across this one-band compilation album, these Hearts definitely beat strong.
The Empty Hearts
The Empty Hearts