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Dan Auerbach Takes a Turn

July 13, 2017 Leave a comment

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If you thought Black Keys guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach was a one-trick pony limited to blues-inspired rock, you’re in for a surprise.

Auerbach recently dropped his second solo album, dubbed Waiting on a Song, and it not what longtime listeners expected. It’s a catchy, Nashville-inspired, country-soul throwback that showcases several dimensions of Auerbach’s musical skillset.

As Rolling Stone reports:

“[Auerbach has] taken the right tack, tapping great talent to grow his retro style without just playing dress-up, creating a Seventies country-soul-rock palette part Lee Hazelwood, part Jim Ford, plus spare parts. The title track is a zen-like meditation on craft co-written with master John Prine; “Cherry Bomb” boasts Duane Eddy’s signature twang; “Undertow” conjures the Spinners with Philly soul strings and a “Games People Play” quote, while “Stand By My Girl” mirrors the piano riff off Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You.” It’s a “Nashville Sound” the town could use more of.”

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Hanni El Khatib Meets Dan Auerbach – Part Two

June 10, 2013 1 comment

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by Mat Weir

This is part two of a three-part series on Hanni El Khatib, the new album and Dan Auerbach’s influence on Khatib’s sound. Read part one.

Despite Auerbach’s cell-phone commercial friendly production, and Emporer Palpatine ability to drain music of its power (I can see him now, hunched over the soundboard, cackling from behind his hood, “Your feeble skills are no match for the Dark Side!”) Head in the Dirt isn’t completely soulless, but it took seeing the songs performed live for this realization. I had written Head in the Dirt off as just another drop in the ocean of commercial music. I figured the blood drawn on Will the Guns Come Out? as just a first album fluke. The old “underdog writes a gritty debut and follows up with Billboard Top 100 Dance Club Hits.” You know, like Aerosmith, only financially smarter not to drag it out over 30 years and through whatever drug addiction is popular at the time.

When I saw Khatib was opening up for Los Angeles psych-crew, The Black Angels, at the Fillmore, I was as giddy as a schoolgirl and twice as nervous. Seeing two of my favorite bands in one line-up always is an opportunity to jump at, but Dan Auerbach’s laughing eyes from behind the Khatib puppet strings burned in my mind. But fuck it, why not? As the doctor said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” Indeed.

Here’s a little reminder for those who don’t know, or do know but are always too drunk to take notice (yes, I’m of the latter). The Filmore is a historic venue in the heart of San Francisco. Made famous by Bill Graham, it became one of the Mecca venues for 1960s psychedelic rock and remains a major venue in the city. Upon entering, you’re met with a long flight of stairs that end in a red corridor covered, from ceiling to carpet, with pictures from the past 50 years of music gods who have anointed the hallowed halls with blood, sweat and booze. The dimly lit 1200 person capacity auditorium is decorated with lavish chandeliers, while Victorian balconies adorn the sides for anyone privileged or dumb enough to pay for a table seat. Sometimes they’ll even pass out posters from the night’s sermon, free of charge, proving once more the eternal truth straight from the Prophet Zappa’s lips, “Music is the only religion that delivers.”

So there I was, standing on the wooden floor in the gut of the temple, stoned from two of the four joints and whiskey I had brought as a sacrificial offering and dazed in delirium from the last 48 hours. Instead of sleeping, I traveled from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz to Davis to San Francisco in order to make the gig, fueled only by nicotine, whiskey and tenacity, Just another devout follower trying to protect my soul, praying Khatib hadn’t completely lost his way in a dark world of radio singles and car jingles. Shit, money talks, right?

Stay tuned for the third and final installment of the Hanni El Khatib/Dan Auerbach saga

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

May 30, 2013 3 comments

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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.

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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.