Happiness Factor

Avoid Danger

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Lead singer Salim Nourallah and his crew are definitely happy and almost joyful on this brief but sweet album of power pop tunes. From the opening chords of "The In-Crowd," the band concentrate on a summery sounding, breezy pop sound that brings to mind the Velvet Crush after listening to the Odds and the Gin Blossoms all day. Tight but very catchy, the Happiness Factor rely on time-honored blueprints to get their messages across. "Insane Ledger" sounds like a cross of Gary Glitter if leading Green Day through a garage session. It's powerful but doesn't quite grab the listener's full attention. A softer, mid-tempo orchestral-tinged pop tune, "Proper Channels," has all the markings of a Beatles' B-side or a typical Michael Penn song. A Hammond organ gives it a fuller, richer sound as well. Perhaps the highlight is the groove-riddled power behind "Soft," with Nourallah letting himself go more than usual. The bridge recalls the Replacements at their finest. You might find yourself hitting replay before it's halfway finished; it's that impressive. "Weight of the World" misses the mark as another paltry Beatles- and Elvis Costello-influenced tune that is, primarily, two songs in one. Thankfully, they get back to their strengths with the psychedelic touches of "Avoid Danger." Costello can also be deciphered on "The Man From the Filling Station." and the lovely "Use Radios!" -- the former having much in common with Costello's "Watching the Detectives." The punchy rock ska of "The Hand That Feeds" is another simple gem but the kicker is "Mr. Critic," which takes the air out of most rock journalists. Overall it's a winner that you've heard before but can't possibly tire of.

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