Cult instrumental power-trio Stinking Lizaveta are back again with 7th Direction, their (surprise, surprise) seventh album, and the band are clearly not short on ideas, sounding more invigorated than ever. Bringing together elements of funk, metal, punk, jazz and blues with the same kind of cavalier oddball brilliance as Frank Zappa, Stinking Liz are a really unique band whose music possesses a truly bombastic groove and a freewheeling spirit of improvisation and fun. There’s a lot to like about these thirteen songs and the band have such a diverse sound that there’s bound to be something here for everyone to sink their teeth into.
Stinking Liz can do heavy but what’s great about them is that they also infuse their music with emotion and humour – even when the band is rocking-out hard you can pretty much hear the wry smile on their faces. Opening track “The Seventh Direction” is almost comically bombastic, entertainingly badass – the first ascending riff is so pompous that it sets the mood for the rest of the song, Alexi Papadopoulos’ walking bassline providing the perfect grounding for his brother Yanni’s virtuoso, psychedelic guitar workouts. Elsewhere, “Moral Hazard” has a slight desert-scene flavour, recalling Queens of the Stone Ages’ early material, while “Burning Sea Turtles” is technical, shamelessly proggy and relentlessly changeable, not giving you a moment to second-guess what might happen next.
But there are also surprising moments of calm and cool on the album as well. One of the album’s highlights, “The Space Between Us”, is equally menacing, darkly comical and surprisingly romantic, with bluesy minor 7ths contributing to the unusual emotional pull of the song. You can hear similarities with some of the Louisville post-rock bands, suggesting Slint and Rodan may be an influence on these guys. On a similar note, final track “Johnny Otis” is one of the least complicated but most memorable songs on the album – a jazzy progression of chords repeat all the way through, ending the often-chaotic album on an almost contemplative note.
Of course, it doesn’t really need to be said (especially considering the band has been together since 1994) but the musicianship and band-dynamic on display on 7th Direction is nothing short of sublime. No member is any more or less important than another; yes, Yanni’s guitar solos come blasting out of the speakers with clockwork regularity, but all three members shine equally bright. Alexi’s bass playing is hugely important to the band’s sound – his upright electric bass leads many of the songs along (see the jazzy, improvisational “Stray Bullet”) but he also contributes deceptively complicated rhythms to many sections. Likewise, Chesire Agusta’s drumming is fantastic throughout, whether maintaining a steady beat amidst the chaos or adding to the maelstrom with a flurry of tom and snare hits. Yanni’s beyond-impressive guitar playing is really the icing on the cake – the guitars are so vocal you can see why they never bothered with a singer.
Like their pals Fugazi, Stinking Lizaveta are a punk band who refuse to be limited by the genre’s – and sometimes, the fans’ – stubborn musical parameters. The result is an intoxicating blend of snarling punk attitude, shifty post-rock dynamics and pure stoner head-banging riffs. They follow whatever musical whim takes them and rarely does it sound thrown together or cluttered. True, one or two tracks go by without leaving much of an impression (or at least not enough to distinguish themselves from the pack) but as a whole, 7th Direction is an extremely strong album. Unsurprisingly, it’s not an album that says a huge amount but it does reaffirm that Stinking Lizaveta are one of the most interesting and quirky heavy instrumental bands around.
Scribed by: Tom McKibbin