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STRETFORD (Buy CDs by this artist)
Target EP7 (Unclean) 1993
Zerox Love EP7 (Rise) 1993
Crossing the Line (Unclean) 1995
Long Distance (Framed) 1999

Austin's Stretford has often been accused of affecting its time-honored Britpunk sound a tad too efficiently, right down to the "whoa-oh" harmonies and thickly accented vocals. But the truth is Stretford major domo Carl Normal is an actual ex-pat who was at it well before the Green Day-inspired renaissance. The men and women of Stretford (named for the English town of Normal's birth) are unapologetically classicist drill-bit pop-punksters, with rolling horn charts and singularly frantic hooks that hearken back to Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers and the Saints. Preceded by a pair of modest 7-inchers, Crossing the Line suffers from typically muted no-budget sound quality but compensates with catchy songwriting. Stuttered riffs and simple bashing rub up against sweet vocals on songs like "Wonder Girl" and "Zerox Love" (not a mistake, just a trademark necessity), while Normal shows off more refined melodic flair on the balladic "Silhouette" and the swinging, horn-laden "I Used to Know." Not earthshaking stuff, but it's more than likable. The band that made the record no longer exists, but this is a good thing, as the new lineup — with Normal switching to guitar, a new bassist replacing him and a three-piece horn section where there was once a lone trumpeter — is far better, its freewheeling, almost sumptuous live shows offering the promise of more fully realized future recordings. Austin scene trivia: Stretford's original horn player was eventual Sincola vocalist Rebecca Cannon, and one of the subsequent trumpeters was Jennings Crawford of the Wannabes.

[Jason Cohen]
   See also Sincola