MAXIMO PARK Prepare for something strange.
Maximo Park
Sat July 2
Dante's
1 SW 3rd

At first, Maximo Park seem too easy to figure out. The British band plays dance rock à la mode. They write songs about girls, with catchy hooks and sunny harmonies. They went to art school. And yet, every once in a while, they'll do something so strange that you have to reconsider them all over again.

Take the song "Limassol," off their debut, A Certain Trigger. The track opens with the straight-laced complaint, "I am young and I am lost." But then singer Paul Smith rhymes that line with "You react to my riposte," an accusation to get all the kids (and more than a few critics) reaching for their Webster's.

Maximo Park's sound could be viewed as a disguised riposte to the Franz Ferd-alikes invading America's pop charts and finer dance clubs. Some elements of their sound are of the moment--Archis Tiku's bass surges and Tom English's pulsing drums have a very familiar feel. But what about those Doors-y keyboard lines, courtesy of Lukas Wooller? Or the R.E.M. jangle of Duncan Lloyd's guitar? Or the album's showstopper, the eerie, Pulp-y spoken word epic "Acrobat"?

These iconoclastic moments might come from Maximo Park's Newcastle upbringing. The big city is a British Omaha, and Smith sounds like the chair of the tourism board when describing its industrial heritage and progressive outlook. The band's bio claims the city "birthed" A Certain Trigger, and it shows in such old-fashioned touches as boy-meets-girl lyrics and pastoral guitar solos. Those elements form a surprising chemical bond with the group's avant-garde leanings, especially when you factor in that Smith can converse about everything from fantasy worlds to exoticism and the 1968 Paris riots.

The album has its flaws--songs fizzle out before they peak and the record is overlong--but there's still enough promise to possibly make good on Smith's claim that, "We're in it for the long term. When the dust settles, we'll still be around."