As far as starting points go, being introduced to fellow band members by BRMC is hardly the worst thing that could happen to an up and coming act. However, that's about where the similarities between fellow San Franciscans Stratford 4 and the now-in-LA lords of darkness end. Sure, they share some common influences, but S4 is hardly a BRMC clone. On their second long player, Love and Distortion, out now on Jetset Records, the band blends their own sonic textures with bits and bobs from their favorite predecessors (Verve, Ride, Echo & The Bunnymen, Spiritualized). Album opener "Where The Ocean Meets The Eye" pairs the dual squalling guitar attack of frontman Chris Streng and gatekeeper to the Land Of The Effect Pedals, Jake Hosek, with the Verve-like rhythm backbone of Andrea Caturegli and Sheetal Singh, to great results. Stripped of some of the sheer bombast of their essential live shows, Love and Distortion instead showcases the band's songwriting, heretofore an afterthought. No longer, however. These kids know what they're doing, live AND in the studio. "12 Months" is a pretty little ditty, indeed, with background effect-laden squalls placing the S4 stamp on the song, while "Tonight Would Be Alright" features the boy-girl vocal pairings of Streng and drummer Caturegli, bringing to mind a sonic car crash featuring Slowdive and Velvet Underground. Love and Distortion is full of epic, skyscraping, driving-in-the-desert-in-a-convertible songs, each one dynamic and different from the one prior. Driving to Coachella? Take the Stratford 4 along with you and the drive will be over before you know it.
JEREMY P. GOLDSTEIN