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The King of France 

With Robbers on High Street and Return of Simple. Saturday, October 15, at the Beachland Tavern.

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It's a real dilemma. Your inner-hipster doesn't want to admit liking this pop music. But when you listen to the off-kilter, intelligent melodies of the King of France, you gotta 'fess up to digging this bunch. The band's blend of vaudevillian vocal styling, impeccably augmented rhythms, and controlled chaos grabs you by the ear like a pompous older brother who's trying to get you to listen to some "real music." But once you hear it, you don't want him to let go.

The King of France expands the bounds of the pop-rock framework like the Violent Femmes and Talking Heads, but also gives the nod to the Beatles and Bob Dylan. More than some post-modern pastiche, the band's songs are at once dramatic and playful, with a richness rooted in simplicity. The group has stripped down the four-man-band formula -- who needs a bassist, when singer Steve Salad's voice drifts from brassy baritone to flailing falsetto, as on "Future Killer"? And when droning keys and steady-hitting drums propel the outro on "Just a Body," you shiver at the thought that the song will soon end.

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