Savage Times is one of those potentially annoying releases wherein the bulk of the tracks have already been released over the course of five EPs so, if you’ve been avidly collecting those as they came out do you fancy buying them all again just to get the four new inclusions? Then again you may be like me and have been completely unaware of the EPs’ existence, in which case all 19 tracks here are fresh for you.
Over the course of 2016 Hanni El Khatib set himself the task of pushing his boundaries in terms of musical styles, writing and playing. Cue learning new instruments and heightened self-awareness.
As a result (and one presumes that the running order here is as per the EPs) within the space of the first four tracks we journey from the garage rock you'd expect ('Baby's OK') to the pop of 'Paralyzed', via the industrial-strength dance of 'Born Brown'. The latter's also a very obvious and straightforward statement against racism.
More often than not on Savage Times El Khatib tinkers to some extent with his usual sound, rather than going into fully new territory such as that of 'Born Brown' and so you get the simplicity of 'Mangos & Rice' more often than the lounge-like suavity of 'Come Down'.
This can make for a rather unengaging experience as you plough your way through the entire album. Different listeners will obviously have different highlights & different low points but every three or four songs you'll likely find yourself zoning out as some experiment or other doesn't quite work for your own taste.
'Mondo And His Makeup' and the rest of the garage tunes are the ones which mainly stand out for me, which isn't to say that the experiment has been a 100% loss in expanding my tastes, more that established acts in the pools El Khatib dips his toe into do it better. They would though likely have a harder job emulating his core style than he's had dabbling with theirs.