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SAVAK sure sound like a great band on paper -- when a group includes folks who used to play with the Obits, the Cops, the Make-Up, and Holy Fuck, you have to imagine that they'll have a barnburner when they emerge from the recording studio. As it happens, SAVAK do sound pretty great on their sophomore effort, 2017's Cut-Ups, but the finished product is a bit leaner and more contemplative than one might imagine. Cut-Ups is clearly the work of a band with plenty of muscle and the smarts to know what to do with it, but at the same time these performances pride themselves on dynamics and instrumental interplay over a full-on attack, and SAVAK are a surprisingly subtle proposition, delivering a lean and wiry variety of indie rock with plenty rolling under the surface. That said, sometimes intelligence wins out over brawn, and SAVAK certainly get their points across with flying colors on Cut-Ups. Guitarists Sohrab Habibion and Michael Jaworski carry the melodies with intelligence and skill with their interlocking six-string patterns, bassist James Canty and drummer Matt Schulz are a rhythm section that's efficient and propulsive, and the horn and keyboard overdubs give the songs a welcome variety of aural textures. When the pieces come together on tunes like "Natural Light," "Like Gary Wilson Said," and "I Don't Want to Be Defended," SAVAK show they have something genuinely exciting to offer. And "Sick of War" and "I Left America" are sociopolitical pieces that reveal this band's smarts apply to the lyrics as well. Cut-Ups is an album that proves maturity in rock music doesn't mean you're ineffectual, and that you can ease back while still hitting the target.

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