Accessibly strange (or strangely accessible)

Cuatros Camino may well be the most straight-forward album Café Tacuba has so far recorded.

And that’s still many steps forward from most angular, critics’ darlings indie acts in Estados Unitas.

The Mexico-based quartet isn’t afraid of dissonance, and the band’s collective avant-garde ear has attracted the likes of Beck and Kronos Quartet.

So it’s a bit surprising to hear singer Ramon Albaran delivering an actual hook on the album opener, “Cero Y Uno”. It’s even more shocking to hear the rest of the band crash in with alt-rock riffs from which the Flaming Lips wouldn’t shy away.

The normalness doesn’t stop there.

“Que Pasará” rumbles with a shuffle beat and an almost garage rock feel. “Eres” possesses a poignant melody but understates its Mexican influences for more of a rock ballad feel.

“Encantamiento”, on the other hand, is a ballad, although that intro is the same used on Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth”.

Sure. It’s pretty obvious isn’t it? Sell out.

Not so.

“Eo”, the first single from the album, possesses some quirky chords and Mexican beats sifted through electroclash effects. It actually sounds a lot cooler than that description.

“Camino Y Vereda” mixes up synthetic timbres and guitar hooks as well as anything off of . While “Soy Y Estoy” shows the band can still turn its Mexican influences on its head.

Café Tacuba’s albums tend to be as scattershot as the band’s wildly diverse interests, but Cuatros Camino shows the band at its most cohesive. There’s not a bit of filler nor a moment of incongruency on the album.

Producer Gustavo Santaolalla has coaxed some of Tacuba’s best performances yet. The band’s more straight-forward songwriting may be disappointing for fans of its more esoteric work, but stack Cuatros Camino against what passes for mainstream nowadays and the distinction is still very much clear.

Cuatros Camino is a marvelously accessible work that doesn’t dilute Café Tacuba’s daring. If anything, it shows just how more accessible rock can benefit from a band that knows its stranger side.