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.
See also: Sincola