Music

Hanni El Khatib: Head in the Dirt

Skater-garage-punk-fashion-line-creative-director El Khatib gets an assist from Dan Auerbach and celebrates those from the wrong side of the tracks on his sophomore album


Hanni El Khatib

Head in the Dirt

Label: Innovative Leisure
US Release Date: 2013-04-30
UK Release Date: 2013-04-30
Artist URL
Label URL
Amazon
iTunes

On his 2011 debut, Will The Guns Come Out, Filipino/Palestinian skater-turned-rocker Hanni El Khatib firmly aligned himself with society's outcasts and downtrodden (see that record's "Fuck It, You Win"; a banjo-folk cover of "Heartbreak Hotel") and was quoted as saying that he was making music for "anyone who has ever been shot or hit by a train" – two demographics marketers often overlook, but one was that a smart garage punk like El Khatib could turn into a fanbase. Will The Guns... was hardly an original record – indeed nearly every review of it employed the phrase "rock 'n' roll pastiche', and for what it's worth, he shares a record label with two other successful rock repurposers, the Allah-Las and Nick Waterhouse – but it was fun, with energy and style to burn, to say nothing of the fact that it largely answered the question, What would it sound like if Jon Spencer fronted the White Stripes? In today's lean rock world, meeting those conditions again on a sophomore disc counts as not breaking something that doesn't need fixing, and Head In The Dirt successfully picks up where El Khatib's debut left off.

So yeah, El Khatib's still chronicling the folks on the other side of the tracks (presumably before they were hit by a train): the self-made criminal of the spy-movie soundtrack-gone-reggae "Nobody Move"; the hard-partying, car-crashing idiot of "Pay No Mind" ("My useless brain is ruined"); the guy who "almost died on the street / but you were quick on your feet" on the Middle Eastern-tinged "Low" and the more general dire situations of "Save Me" and "Sinking In The Sand". Producer Dan Auerbach, who has done similar work with the retro-minded Hacienda, helps pump up El Khatib's sound – some keys here, female backing vox there, though maybe a little less of the first record's rockabilly vibe ("Dead Wrong") – but it's safe to say El Khatib's mastered this shtick. That said, it's also nice to report that his deviations from the formula are among Dirt's highlights and point to a direction for the future: the boogie piano that anchors "Family" (as well as that tune's Big Guitar Ending), and the just-this-side-of-cute pop gem "Penny" ("You were hiding underneath my soul/sole... please shine on"), that, admittedly, the less generous might peg as Ben Harper Lite.

Questions of authenticity may continue to swirl around El Khatib – and he certainly does nothing to quell them – but he's a canny musician and one with a day job in marketing/branding, as a skater fashion label creative director, so he knows a thing or three about image. Dude knows what'll sell, and he's put it all on Head In The Dirt.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Film

Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.

Film

The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Books

'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.

Music

2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.

Books

'Lie With Me': Beauty, Love and Toxic Masculinity in the Gay '80s

How do we write about repression and toxic masculinity without valorizing it? Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is equal parts poignant tribute and glaring warning.

Music

Apparat's 'Soundtrack: Capri-Revolution' Stands Alone As a Great Ambient Experience

Apparat's (aka Sascha Ring) re-imagined score from Mario Martone's 2018 Capri-Revolution works as a fine accompaniment to a meditational flight of fancy.

Music

Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers Merge Haitian Folk and Electronic Music on 'Vodou Alé'

Haitian roots music meets innovative electronics on Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers' Vodou Alé.

My Favorite Thing

Weird and Sweet, Riotous and Hushed: The Beatles' 'The White Album'

The Beatles' 'The White Album' is a piece of art that demonstrates how much you can stretch, how far you can bend, how big you really are. The album is deeply weird. It has mass. It has its own weather.

Music

Sarah Jarosz Finds Inspiration in Her Texas Roots on 'World on the Ground'

By turning to her roots in central Texas for inspiration on World on the Ground, Sarah Jarosz has crafted some of her strongest songs yet.

Music

Hinds' 'The Prettiest Curse' Is One of Victory

On The Prettiest Curse, Hinds create messy pop music that captures the vibrancy of youth without being childish.

Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.