Something of an indie rock supergroup, the prolific SAVAK feature past and present members of the Obits, Edsel, the Cops, and Holy Fuck. Their sound is brawny indie rock that leans heavily on guitars, in particular on 2017’s Cut-Ups, with horns and keyboards used to give the performances detail and texture on 2020’s Rotting Teeth in the Horse’s Mouth. SAVAK are also capable of giving their music a melodic undertow while still sounding wiry on the surface, a balance that dominated 2022’s Human Error/Human Delight.
Founded in Brooklyn in 2015, SAVAK was named for the much-feared secret police force associated with the leadership of Imperial Iran from 1957 to 1979. Influenced by vintage punk rock, psychedelia, pub rock, and various stripes of world music, the group was founded by vocalist and guitarist Sohrab Habibion, who was previously a member of Edsel and the Obits. Habibion filled out the lineup with friends and colleagues who also had notable experience under their belts. Guitarist Michael Jaworski had played in Virgin Islands and the Cops; bassist James Canty‘s resumé included stints in the Make-Up and Ted Leo & the Pharmacists; and drummer Matt Schulz divides his time between SAVAK and Holy Fuck.
In 2016, SAVAK unveiled their debut album, Best of Luck in Future Endeavors, which was released by Comedy Minus One Records. The cover art was designed by Rick Froberg, who was Habibion‘s bandmate in the Obits. In 2017, SAVAK were back with their second album, Cut-Ups, released by the Ernest Jenning Record Co. Just a year later, they treated their fans to a third LP, Beg Your Pardon, also released by Ernest Jenning. The prolific band delivered their fourth album, Rotting Teeth in the Horse’s Mouth, in 2020. It was SAVAK’s first record since James Canty left the group; producer Geoff Sanoff played bass in his place on several cuts, as did Habibion and Jaworski, while Anthony Roman from Radio 4 provided the low end on “Listening” and “Bayonet.” Other guests included Scott McCloud (ex-Girls Against Boys) and Michael Hampton (who played in Faith and One Last Wish).
No fewer than six bassists took turns on the sessions for album number five, 2022’s Human Error/Human Delight, with Sanoff and Roman returning to the rotation alongside Matt Hunter (New Radiant Storm King), Douglas McCombs (Tortoise, Eleventh Dream Day), Matt McQuaid (one of Schulz‘s Holy Fuck bandmates), and Nick Sewell (Biblical). The LP saw SAVAK in typically tough and angular form while still finding room for effective melodic hooks and horn accents. The band toured in support of the release, including dates opening for Jawbox.
—Mark Deming, AllMusic.