The many sides of Hanni El Khatib, who opens for Florence + the Machine tonight


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Wilcox Sessions -- Hanni El Khatib (‘You Rascal You’) from Wilcox Sessions on Vimeo.

The singularity of Hanni-El Khatib reveals itself when you attempt to wedge his music into your iTunes playlist. His scraped and scarred guitar salvos are too pyrotechnic to fit into the ethereal folk-like float or world-music fixation of the NPR-friendly indie-rock wing. And his influences stretch further back than the lo-fi tinnitus titans that record for the rightfully acclaimed Woodsist and Siltbreeze imprints.


His copy of “A Change Is Gonna Come” is battered enough to consider him a disciple of classic soul. But no one will mistake his abrasive racket for the reverent worship of the Budos Band, Fitz & the Tantrums and the Mark Ronson mafia. If he does have a contemporary cognate it might be the Dum Dum Girls or Best Coast, which fuse garage-rock rawness with the Cherry Coke pop of Phil Spector and the Shangri-Las.

Yet both of those groups aim squarely at crafting a beautiful melancholy, while Khatib steps into the arena with blood dripping from his leather jacket. His music wears its split-ends proudly. It’s a punk vibe with spiky hair substituted for pompadours curled with pomade -- the sort of music you’d expect to have soundtracked “West Side Story,” had the songs been written by the Sharks and Jets instead of Sondheim and Bernstein.

El Khatib’s sound is a blistering barrage that you’d expect from a former San Francisco skate punk, recently transplanted to LA. Perhaps the closest comparison is to a ‘De Stijl’-era Jack White, if he had claimed lineage from the Stax catalog instead of Son House.

Recording for Stones Throw subsidiary Innovative Leisure, the half-Palestinian and half-Filipino artist epitomizes the eclecticism of the infamously unpredictable label. Like Dam-Funk or Mayer Hawthorne, Khatib isn’t hip-hop in sound, but via his attitude and approach. Tapped to open for fellow rock-soul-blues fusionist Florence & the Machine, Khatib is bringing his guitar squall, distortion pedals and bourbon-boiled vocals to the Wiltern tonight. Afterward, he’s playing a free RSVP-only extended set at the afterparty at Bardot (with a DJ set from Florence of the Machine). And if you were wondering, just file his songs under ‘rock & roll.’

Download: (Pop & Hiss Exclusive)
MP3: Hanni El Khatib -- ‘You Rascal You’

-- Jeff Weiss