The Stratford 4

Love & Distortion

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Love & Distortion delivers more of the fuzzed-out, post-shoegazer indie rock that the Stratford 4 introduced on their debut, The Revolt Against Tired Noises. Songs like the album-opener, "Where the Ocean Meets the Eye," feature Anglophilic vocals, poetically vague lyrics, and walls of distorted guitars that will remind indie rock fans of a certain age of some of their favorite bands from the late '80s and early '90s, as well as the groups that inspired those bands. The droning sound of the Velvets through Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine that Stratford 4 fuses together has aged well, but the band doesn't bring much that's new or original to the mix. The lack of focused songwriting that plagues the middle-third of Love & Distortion doesn't help matters either; tracks like "The Simple Things Are Taking Over," "Tonight Would Be Alright," and "Kleptophilia" all begin promisingly but tend to run out of ideas before they're over, while "Telephone," a mellow, fuzzy pop song, makes the mistake of namechecking a bunch of bands -- including Echo & the Bunnymen, T. Rex, Belle & Sebastian, and the aforementioned Spacemen -- that clearly influenced Stratford 4 but remain far more distinctive. Despite the band's love for their effects pedals -- as evinced by songs like "Swim into It" and "I'm in the Moon" -- it's their more streamlined, rock-oriented songs that make the biggest impact. "She Married the Birds" recalls a slew of '80s college rock bands, but still sounds fresh; "Story's Over" has a slightly darker sound that alludes to the band's Black Rebel Motorcycle Club connections. A couple of the ballads, such as the pretty, pensive "Twelve Months" and the shimmering "Tiger Girl," also reflect a more distinctive direction for the band, but overall Love & Distortion still finds the Stratford 4 operating as a band with more taste in music than original ideas.

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