Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Good Ship Rediscovery: The Stratford 4 - Love & Distortion

We all forget about the older stuff from time to time, in our quest to stay up to speed with the latest and greatest. But one should always respect their elders. So don’t forget about them, y’hear?

A long few years ago, I saw San Francisco noisemakers The Stratford 4 open for someone I'll be damned if I can remember at the Black Cat. After falling in smit with their set, I went out and procured a copy of their Love & Distortion CD. Eight years later, I still thank the music gods that I wasn't late to whatever show I was seeing that night and got to see TS4 live. The band might since have disbanded, but they left behind one heck of an album. Love & Distortion is fuzzy and wonderful, and does indeed contain quite a bit if distortion, though underlying everything are some very clean, very lovely pop lines.

The whole mad swirl begins with the epic, shoegaze-resplendent "Where The Ocean Meets The Eye," swelling with Verve-esque bass rhythms and huge waves of muscly, crackling guitars. Singer Chris Streng's voice has an almost 80s English bent to it, his slight waver perfect for the surrounding squall of sound all around him. "I went to confession/and I had nothing to confess," Streng proclaims wryly in the excellent, guitar-heavy 60s psych pop gem "She Married The Birds." It's one of my favorite songs on the record, hands down.

The intro to "The Simple Things Are Taking Over" reminds me a little of The Stone Roses, with that crackle and a bassline that could have easily come from Mani. The song, like many on Love & Distortion, feels steeped in fog and heaviness, stopping just short of darkness. "Kleptophilia," however, takes a step into the light with the slightly Brian Jonestown Massacre (Matt Hollywood ouevre) sass of lines like "If you're going to fall out of his bed/I want you to land in mine," and the rollicking playfulness that comes with the territory when it comes to crushes.

"Telephone" drolly takes on the musical listening habits of folks ("when I was 22/I was a lot like you", "Don't forget Bob Dylan/and don't forget The Stones") amongst a backdrop of shimmering, muddled guitars. Another favorite, "Story's Over," has big bursts of guitars (not to mention cynicism) and once again treads 80s Brit territory (perhaps shades of Catherine Wheel), as well as one of my favorite lyrics ever ("I could eat you alive 100 times").

From the scuzzy sheen of shoegaze to more driving, pop-laden rock, The Stratford 4's efforts on Love & Distortion should certainly not go unnoticed. Maybe one of these days they'll kiss and hug and reform to continue making music that makes yours truly a very happy lady.

m4a: She Married The Birds (The Stratford 4 from Love & Distortion)

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