In the spring of 2016, San Francisco blues-punk eccentric Hanni El Khatib issued the first of what would eventually be five EPs bearing the name Savage Times. More so than on previous releases, these EPs staunchly subscribed to an anything-goes credo that found El Khatib moving further afield from his garage stomp roots. Throughout the year the remaining four EPs were consecutively doled out by the Innovative Leisure label, each offering bite-sized glimpses into the guitarist's rapidly evolving creative process. Packaged together in a limited-edition 10" vinyl box set, Savage Times (the album) includes all 19 tracks from the EPs, effectively serving as El Khatib's fourth full-length release. What it lacks in overall cohesion is made up for by a scatterbrained sprawling in numerous directions, giving this the feeling of a career-spanning collection of rarities and experiments rather than the strange fruit of a one-year period. There's the warm synth-psych of "Come Down," the bright disco-infused "Paralyzed," the caterwauling freakout of "Mangos and Rice," and the ornate string-laden pop of "Gun Clap Hero." Many of the songs have a freewheeling quality, like the hooky "So Dusty" and the torchy one-take "Miracle." Built around a crushing synth arpeggio, the frantic "Born Brown" takes direct aim at the singer's mixed race heritage with bold references to his immigrant parents' plight. Its name is appropriate: Savage Times is indeed raw, desperate, and chock-full of new ideas and sounds, making this a creative breakout for El Khatib.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger