Home > Tales of the Weird > Head in the Dirt: Dan Auerbach is a soulless greasebag version of Emperor Palpatine, and the meaning of life.

Head in the Dirt: Dan Auerbach is a soulless greasebag version of Emperor Palpatine, and the meaning of life.


This is part one of a three part series written by Mr. Weir about Hanni El Khatib and his music.

by Mat Weir

If the name Hanni El Khatib doesn’t mean anything to you yet, just wait. The 31 year old, San Francisco-born-turned-L.A.-transplant garage rocker is touring with psychedelic colleagues, The Black Angels, fresh off the heels of his new album without showing any signs of stopping.

Head in the Dirt has already hit number 8 on the Billboard Heatseeker Album Chart (for new and “developing” artists, although this is his second album and Macklemore’s first album is still on the regular top 200 chart) and is quickly picking up momentum. Not to downplay Khatib’s gift for crafting a fuck-you attitude into dangerously addictive pop, but the album’s success has definitely not been hurt by the fact it was produced by Dan Auerbach, of Black Keys fame. But more on that later.


I’d been waiting for Khatib’s second release as soon as I bought his first, 2011’s Will The Guns Come Out. As the story always goes in the recording industry, the debut was an audible kick-to-the-nuts of an album that went completely unnoticed by, well, everyone. I only bought it because my friend Itay had picked it up on a whim, then freaked out and told everyone he knew they needed it.

And rightfully so. Will The Guns Come Out takes the typical garage formula of rock, surf and blues but rearranges it to defy the laws of boredom. The hooks are catchy and the choruses are built with easy but smart lines. There’s just as much love and loss as there is distortion-infused anger (or as with “Garbage City,”: love, hate, loss, want, distortion and acoustics all mixed into a ball of chaos that works, much like San Francisco, the city it’s about.) There’s even an incredibly disturbing cover of “Heartbreak Hotel,” which not many could pull off.

Recorded by Khatib, the raw as roadkill album is a haunted piece and the creator knew it. To exemplify this, the cover is graced with a car crash, preparing the listener for garage rock from the other side.

So when I heard the almost electronic-beat opening to Head In The Dirt, I double-checked to see if I had put in the right disc. My second thought was, “When did Khatib join the Black Keys?” Dan Auerbach left his greasy fingerprints all over this recording, which is my biggest gripe with it. He lathers the album in slick production, smothering the soul so much it’s barely audible on first listen. Whether this was a conscious decision for Khatib or not (liner notes claim Auerbach and Khatib randomly met at a Parisian bar, hit it off and the collaboration fell into place), the results are the same. If I wanted to hear the Black Keys, I’d flip on the radio, which in itself is a sin against my religion.

And yet, the question remains–as I sit here in a paranoid cold sweat, surrounded by a fog of nicotine smoke, questioning my own judgment: “Why can’t I stop listening to Head in the Dirt?”

Stay tuned for future installments of Head in the Dirt: Dan Auerbach is a soulless greasebag version of Emporer Palpatine, and the meaning of life.

  1. The Verve List
    June 16, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Great write-up dude. I had to laugh as I read it, since my reaction to the new album was identical. Not certain whether or not to take your closing comment as an indicator you dig the album or not. Perhaps you’re retreating from negativity in the name of politeness. Though I loath to admit it, as I’m an ardent Black Keys evangelist, Auerbach sodomized Khatib’s sound here. On a blind-listen, you shouldn’t be able to mistakenly guess the producer instead of the artist. Just my thoughts. Once again….great write-up.

  1. June 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm
  2. June 22, 2013 at 8:21 am

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