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The Stratford 4

You probably haven't heard -- or heard of -- The Stratford 4 yet, because they haven't released much and they haven't gotten much exposure. But you need to. Immediately. The San Francisco quartet specializes in an intoxicating variety of deep, dreamy blissful rock that takes its cues from a number of musical sources, most of them English. Their swirling, seductive guitar-rock style sounds deeply influenced by the brilliant, criminally forgotten late '70s U.K. pop-punk band The Only Ones (remembered only for their one hit, "Another Girl Another Planet"). Indeed, those familiar with The Only Ones will probably find Stratford 4 singer Chris's voice a near-dead ringer for that of The Only Ones' rakish frontman Peter Perrett. But the group melds that New Wave pop-punk style with the spaced-out drones and feedback squalls of more recent U.K. pop groups like Ride, Spacemen 3, and Spiritualized.

The results are just terrific: this group has a sound totally unto itself, yet it works according to all the rules of what makes good pop music. Chris and Jake's guitars dance and swirl around one another with sad, reverberating slide parts, chiming repetitive riffs, and occasional sudden bursts of feedback to produce lush, eddying whirlpools of sound. Sheetal's bass is an anchor-solid low-end, while Andrea's drumming offers a steady, energetic backbeat. Occasional organ swells and subtle effects enrich each song.

The group's origins can be traced back to a San Francisco band called Triplo, in which Andrea, Sheetal, and Jake played. That group split up in 1998, and a few months later, on Valentine's Day 1999, the trio met singer Chris, and The Stratford Four was born. In August 1999, the group recorded for the first time. The result was a terrific four-song EP, which earned them the notice of the discerning NYC indie label Jetset Records. The quartet then set to work recording some new material and in early 2002, releaased an expanded version of the EP, the appropriately titled The Revolt Against Tired Noises, which features the soaring, high-energy "Hydroplane" (pretty much a perfect pop song). That's all the group has recorded so far, but more is sure to come. The Stratford 4 has nailed a terrific sound that you'll be craving the way a society lady needs her Valium.