We've said plenty about Eisley and its sisters-and-brother act (just trying to get ourselves in position for an episode of VH1's Driven), but there's another set of family ties that's gone somewhat unnoticed: Salim and Faris Nourallah. There are a few reasons for that. One, the brothers have a bit of a tumultuous history--kind of a modern update on the relationship (musically and otherwise) between the Kinks' Ray and Dave Davies--sparring in the studio during their uneasy alliance as the Nourallah Brothers, which produced a fantastic self-titled disc in 2000. And Faris has become something of a Texan version of XTC's Andy Partridge (as Salim has said), backing away from live performance to the point where he rarely leaves the house where he records.
That hasn't stopped them from becoming stars (sort of) in Amsterdam--VPRO Radio paid for Salim to come over and perform some songs from the Nourallah Brothers' self-titled album in June 2001--but they haven't caught on anywhere else, really. It's everyone's loss: Together (they both played in the Moon Festival, not to mention their own duo) and apart (Salim with his band, the Happiness Factor; Faris as a solo artist), they've made some of the smartest pop music around. But smart doesn't sell like it used to. Can't really remember when it did, come to think of it.
But still they go on, doing what they do no matter who is paying attention. Faris released his first solo album, I Love Faris, earlier this year on Western Vinyl. Which pretty much put a second Nourallah Brothers disc on hold for now, and maybe forever, since Faris used many of the songs they'd planned for inclusion on I Love Faris. Not surprised then that the disc, with its child's-play melodies and detail-oriented arrangements, bears a striking resemblance to the brothers' debut. That said, no step is retraced, as Faris apparently has a limitless supply of songs running through his head. His voice is perhaps the most affecting aspect of I Love Faris, curling into a falsetto like a cat on a quilt.
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On Salim's end, the Happiness Factor's latest--the five-song Critical Mess EP, coming soon on Summer Break Records--continues his stroll down the trail blazed by Big Star and the Attractions and the like. Meaning: amped-up pop-pop-rock-rock that makes a smile start somewhere around your shoes. (Favorite cuts: "Mr. Critic" and "I'd Rather be Famous...and Suck.") A teaser for a full-length that follows up 2001's Self-Improvement, Critical Mess hits stores April 22, and the group will perform with Household Names and Shibboleth at Good Records just prior to that, on April 19. If you can't wait until then, the Happiness Factor also plays the Liquid Lounge, with Real Heroes and Ashburne Glen, on April 11. Show some brotherly love, people.
Pleasant Grove has a couple of shows coming up. Or rather, the Pleasant Grove Preservation Society does. See, PG drummer Jeff Ryan is currently on the road with the Baptist Generals, and Joe Butcher, who manned various keyboards and the pedal steel for the group, has "jumped ship" for the Polyphonic Spree. (Because that band really needs one more member.) But the other three members of Pleasant Grove aren't letting that keep them on the sidelines. Singer-guitarist Marcus Striplin says the band's April 17 gig at Curtain Club will feature Lift to Experience's Andy Young sitting in behind the drum kit, and opening act Chao (a.k.a. Regina Chellew) playing with the band as well. The set, Striplin says, will be "electronic-y, but not really. Whatever the fuck that means." The temporarily renamed band (which also includes singer-guitarist Bret Egner and bassist Tony Hormilosa) is also playing a pair of gigs at the end of the month with the New Year and Silkworm, including an April 27 stop at Gypsy Tea Room. Stop by to find out just what "electronic-y, but not really" means...
Hand stamps: The Chemistry Set performs April 10 at the Liquid Lounge, with Budapest One; John Price is at Club Clearview on April 10, and [DARYL], Slowride and Tendril open for Mike Watt there on April 12; The Faceless Werewolves and Falkon (or the Falcon Project) open for the Kills at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios on April 12; Earl Harvin Trio is at Gypsy Tea Room on April 10, followed by Speedealer on April 12 and the 2003 Dallas Observer Music Awards on April 15, featuring performances by Jack Ingram, Eisley, Sorta, Queen for a Day, as well as a special pre-show performance by John Price at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but you need one to get in. Hit www.dallasobserver.com for more info.