I was trying to think of a way to describe Hanni El Khatib’s blistering, howling, guitar-driven music. Psychobilly? No. Modern blues? Sort of. Grunge? Not quite. Luckily, I discovered Hanni El Khatib had provided a perfect description for his music on his website:
“These songs were written for anyone who’s ever been shot or hit by a train.”
The album opens with the title track – a chanting song about the temptation to break into bullet-ridden violence when all is going wrong around you. The fact that it’s set to tinny toy box music makes it creepier.
“Build. Destroy. Rebuild” (El Khatib’s first indie-released single) is a fun stab at Millennial culture and a nice introduction to El Khatib’s frenetic vocals and guitar work. Before you think he’s a complete madman, he drops “Dead Wrong” on you. It has wonderful, snappy guitar playing, delightful singing, and a plea to a pretty girl to see him for the sweet romantic guy he is and not the tough guy image he projects to his buddies and the world at large. “Come Alive” is another plea for love, just in case you ladies don’t believe El Khatib’s serious about treating you fine. He wants you to be his “Loved One” (a head-nodding, foot-stomper that I think El Khatib divined from the ghost of Hound Dog Taylor). “Wait Wait Wait” is a story of a woman realizing she’s about to lose a great guy like El Khatib, and her cries for him to return may be far too late. She must’ve convinced him, because El Khatib’s cover of Louis Armstrong’s “You Rascal You” is a stern warning for fellas to stay away from his lady.
His cover of “Heartbreak Hotel” seems to reveal more of a Tom Waits influence than one of the King. “Garbage City” grows from a soft salute to El Khatib’s hometown of San Francisco (warts and all) to a blistering, crunchy finish. I recommend getting the bonus track of El Khatib’s cover of Funkadelic’s “I Got a Thing” if you can find it. It’s a rocker that will pump you up for a boxing match, wild lovemaking session, or both.
The standout track on the album, however, is the wonderfully named “Fuck It, You Win.” It’s a loud, noisy, pissed off track to a lover who has sabotaged El Khatib too many times. A friend of mine described this song as being like “a juicy steak from a platinum cow.” You will want to play this as you drive away from that job you quit, that prick that cheated on you, or that class reunion you really didn’t want to attend. You won’t be able to stop listening to it.
Or the rest of the record. El Khatib shows great promise and I hope he keeps spinning more stories of good and bad relationships, and that he flattens a lot of walls in the process.
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Nik Havert is a writer, DJ, harmonica player, martial arts instructor, comic book publisher, crime fighter,music lover, cult movie enthusiast, and modern day Renaissance man. He hopes to shark cage dive sometime in the next few years and enjoys travel and good natural root beer.
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