Hanni El Khatib is a San Franciscan songwriter and co-founder of Innovative Leisure Records. As a musician, he’s best known for mixing a garage rock sensibility with the reverb-heavy psyche and surf flavours of his home state. Like Innovative Leisure label mate Nick Waterhouse, his sound has a distinctively retro feel. However, whereas Waterhouse’s music sometimes risks being too backward-looking, Khatib’s is steeped in the sounds of its antecedents without being submerged in their influence. His new EP introduces a pleasing edginess thanks to some thought provoking lyrics and some interesting, if slightly jarring musical departures.
The single’s opener, ‘Baby’s OK’ sounds a lot like his last album ‘Moonlight’, but with a more abrasive feel evocative of Richard Hell and the Voidoids. The under three minutes song with it’s lyrics about being “high as fuck” makes for an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable start to the first side.
Track two ‘Born Brown’ is another short song, this time packing a serious punch, mixing socio-political lyrics with rasping, shouted vocals and a more electronic sound that creates dissonant contrast to the other tracks on the single. The lack of conventional rock musicality – and the song’s angry commentary on the politics of racial identity from the Palestinian/Filipino American Khatib – make it the stand-out track, even if it doesn’t fit neatly with the other two songs.
The EP’s last ‘Gonna Die Alone’ takes us back Khatib’s more familiar territory. It combines a spacey, stoned arrangement and some psychedelic guitar work with some truly fatalistic lyrics, providing a appropriately dark close to this compelling and original record.
‘Savage Times Vol 1’ EP is out now via Innovative Leisure Records.
This Hanni El Khatib article was written by David Rogers, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.