When Peter Hayes and Robert Turner left Chris Streng behind to form Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, they probably never would have thought that Streng would move on to a band that’s better than B.R.M.C.

Well, they would have been wrong. Streng carried on with the Stratford 4, a San Francisco-based band that features the same Jesus & Mary Chain-style guitar shimmer and feedback effects as the B.R.M.C. but without B.R.M.C.’s hipster goth-punk posing.

Sure, the Stratford 4 have a pretty hip image going for ’em, and their music appeals mostly to the deck indie kids, but at the same time, they’re not afraid to let their guard down and show their earnest side.

Take for example “Telephone,” the centerpiece of the band’s latest, Love & Distortion, during which Streng relates a phone conversation with his mother. Over thick layers of guitar and white noise, he complains of lonely nights spent with just his radio to keep him company, and his mother comforts him by saying “Son, you’re gonna be just fine / But don’t forget Bob Dylan / Don’t forget the Stones / And don’t spend Saturday night all alone / When I was 22 I was a lot like you.” Touching enough to melt even the hardest heart.

Lush guitars and thoughtful lyrics permeate throughout all of Love & Distortion, making for one of rock’s realest and best records in recent memory.

Rating: Four stars.

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