Essential New Music: SAVAK’s “Human Error/Human Delight”

Part of the deal for rock ‘n’ roll fans is to be interested in, and often obsessed with, band minutiae. For me with New York City’s SAVAK, it’s how songwriters Sohrab Habibion and Michael Jaworski have sequenced each record.

On the band’s last three LPs—2016’s debut Best Of Luck With Future Endeavors is an exception—a Jaworski song comes first, followed by a Habibion tune and so forth, a la Grant Hart and Bob Mould in Hüsker Dü, through a 10-track duration. In a clear attempt to throw off hacks who notice stupid shit, SAVAK’s fifth great outing, Human Error/Human Delight (Ernest Jenning), kicks off with a Habibion number, doubles up on Jaworski songs halfway through and—gasp­—contains 12 tracks.

Is there upheaval in the ranks? Perhaps some bitter infighting after Habibion put his foot down to finally get the coveted first slot?

“I honestly hadn’t made that connection when we were sequencing this one,” says Jaworski. “I’m almost slightly embarrassed that I’ve insisted that my songs lead off each record. Almost.”

“Thanks to James Hetfield, we’ve got therapist Phil Towle on speed dial,” says Habibion.

Written and recorded during the first year of the ongoing pandemic, the LP was initially conceived as two six-song EPs, fittingly dubbed Human Error and Human Delight. Once that idea was scrapped, the songs were merged into a single slab while keeping the original running order for each.

“The six Human Error songs tend to focus more on the common human frailties and struggles, while the Human Delight side has a brighter and more hopeful outlook,” says Jaworski. “The particular groupings went out the window when we combined it into one LP, but in our minds, there are still six songs that fall under each umbrella.”

“The album title appeals to me because it suggests celebrating our species’ foibles, which I’m a big proponent of,” says Habibion. “As a musician, I’m constantly learning from mistakes or trying to recognize when the mistake is actually the best part. Imperfections usually make things more interesting, for better or worse.”

Sequencing, song quantity and whatever else aside, the important takeaway from Human Error/Human Delight is that it again demonstrates just how consistently these guys produce quality, tense-yet-catchy stuff. Among many highlights, Habibion’s “No Blues No Jazz” might be his most insistently memorable song, though the punkish “My Book On Siblings” wouldn’t be far behind, and Jaworski shines brightly on “Empathy” and “Trashing The Ghost.” Human Error/Human Delight could very well be the group’s finest achievement, and Habibion and Jaworski are essentially on board with that assessment.

“I’m proud of every record, and each one represents a different point in time for us as individuals and as a band,” says Jaworski. “That said, I do feel like this is our best effort from top to bottom. I guess the more we do this, the better we get.”

“I can’t be objective about it, but I definitely think about other bands’ albums in that way,” says Habibion. “If someone hadn’t heard the Replacements before, I’d tell them to listen to Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash and then Let It Be, keeping in mind it’s the same band three years apart. Then I’d tell them to listen to everything in chronological order, and if they felt like they were all in after Pleased To Meet Me, they should dive into Don’t Tell A Soul, and then we’ll meet for drinks to discuss. By that measure, we just made our Tim. Unfortunately, there’s nothing as good as ‘Bastards Of Young’ on our album, but we all need goals.”

—Matt Hickey