The Stratford 4's brand of pop sounds as if it might have been sent to us from the shores of England circa 1990 -- which is not to say that The Stratford 4 are just another in the string of highly derivative bands who've hitched their wagon to Ride instead of The Velvet Underground. They've tempered their feedback-washed approach with a more wide-awake pop sensibility, and the results are quite successful.
The delicate "Telephone" focuses on Chris Streng's vocals; he recounts telephone conversations he's had with his mother. Streng asks his mother whether it's alright for him to stay in at night listening to music on the radio and getting high, and she replies that he's grown up now and it's his choice to make, but asks who he's been listening to. He tells her he listens to Spacemen 3, T. Rex, and Belle and Sebastian, among others, to which she counsels, "Don't forget Bob Dylan and don't forget The (Rolling) Stones." She even adds a little motherly advice, pertinent (in a general sense) to musicians, online zine publishers and introspective indie rockers alike: "I'll say it again and I've said it before, there's more to this life than the Stratford 4. But don't just take my word for it, you've gotta get out and live a bit." At the end of the song, we hear a lonely female on an answering machine; she asks if Streng is home, and if he wants to come over. Streng takes his mother's advice and gets out, apparently to this woman's place.
Wondering what happens next? Suffice it to say that the next cut, "Tonight Would Be Alright", is a semi-duet, with lyrics like "If you wanna kiss my mouth / tell me what it's all about / If you want to climb in bed / with your delicate head / tonight would be all right."
The hour-long Love & Distortion never loses steam; it delivers on its title, and is unique enough to avoid lyrical banality. It may inspire you to revisit those timeless Ride and Slowdive albums, but also stands up well on its own. Call it a next-generation classic-in-the-making.