Previously a creative director for a skateboard fashion label and a designer for an advertising agency, Hanni El Khatib, a first-generation American son of Filipino/Palestinian immigrants, states that his raw back-to-basics sound is designed for "anyone who has ever been shot or hit by a train." The multi-instrumentalist sure knows how to sell his music, but his debut album, Will the Guns Come Out, proves that there's more to him than just attention-grabbing soundbites. Those who have seen the recent Nike promo, which features his raucous glam rock interpretation of Funkadelic's "I Got a Thing," will already be aware of his retro rough-and-ready style, but there's plenty more where that came from. The abrasive "Build. Destroy. Rebuild." is a nihilistic call-to-arms that blends vintage garage rock riffs with ramshackle beats and El Khatib's unhinged yelping tones; "Fuck It, You Win" channels the early primal blues of the White Stripes with its scuzzy guitars and relentless crashing percussion; while the sparse one-chord grunge of "Garbage City," the distorted psychedelic cover of Louis Armstrong standard "You Rascal You," and the stomping old-school R&B of "Come Alive" continue to menace and enthrall in equal measure. There are a couple of more melodic offerings such as the Vampire Weekend-esque Afro-beat hooks and doo wop backing vocals of "Dead Wrong," the mournful banjo-led folk rendition of Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel," and the vulnerable acoustic balladry of "Wait Wait Wait," but Will the Guns Come Out? is much more compelling when wearing its primitive rock & roll pastiche badge with pride. It's certainly not pretty but it's a distinctive first record that, in a bizarre way, appears to live up to his rather unusual claims.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien