With the title and the first song off of Hanni El Khatib’s Innovative Leisure debut, the eclectic San Francisco rocker poses a question: “Will the guns come out?” His paranoid inquiry lends an element of suspense at the record’s outset, but none of the songs wind up as startling as the title might indicate. Instead, Will The Guns Come Out is a collection of pleasantly rough and catchy minimalist-rock tunes.
El Khatib, an avid skateboarder, has worked with skateboard fashion label HUF and saw a boost in popularity after his cover of Parliament’s “I Got A Thing” was featured in a Nike skate and surf ad. El Khatib’s music is a perfect fit for a major corporation’s extreme sports spot; it’s rowdy and distorted enough to get the kids fired up but polite and polished enough to play on commercials.
Over the course of Will The Guns, just over half an hour in length, El Khatib tears through a variety of styles, from garage pop to doo-wop to heartbroken acoustic folk, and spans the spectrum of success along the way. He triumphs in the moments where his raucous rock ’n’ roll attitude is most pronounced, such as the rough ’n tumble nihilism of “Build. Destroy. Rebuild.” and the thickly fuzzed guitar thump of “Fuck It, You Win,” easily the most fun songs on the record. However, tunes like “I Got A Thing” (included as a bonus track) and a cover of Louie Armstrong’s “You Rascal You” gleam with too much studio varnish, detracting from Khatib’s raw energy and smoothing away the jagged edges that make his other songs so rousing.
El Khatib manages to brandish an impressive range of techniques from his eclectic arsenal over the course of his debut. Although Will The Guns sometimes occupies an awkward middle ground between the electrifying and unhinged and the banally composed, there is enough firepower present to make it worthwhile. It’s an impressive debut, one that indicates that the young El Khatib will be bringing out his big guns on future releases.