Jarrett Seltzer, bassist for Houston Calls, has placed an ad on the band’s Web site: "Van for sale. 115,000 miles. Re-built transmission." And there’s proof of this quintet’s work ethic in the form of a beat up 1994 Chevy G20. The van’s engine may not purr anymore, but A Collection of Short Stories makes a mighty sweet sound.

True to the album’s title, Houston Calls uses a narrative song style for their tunes. This makes for a refreshing change from all the bands that think loudness equates to sincerity.

"Bob and Bonnie" is an endearing story of a lasting love that kindled over a chance meeting by a barroom jukebox; driving guitars and pounding toms click off the 38-year-old relationship in a mere few minutes. "Elephant and Castle" is another gem among the many highlights here, so expect these power-poppers to be wearing out a lot of vans.

Grade: A-