Five Reviews/One Day Pt. 1: Stinking Lizaveta, Sacrifice and Bliss

A pretty accurate visual representation of the music.It’s a “Where does the time go?” kind of situation to think that Pennsylvania‘s Stinking Lizaveta have been around for 15 years. I don’t even remember the first time I saw the trio (which is probably no accident), but the last time was at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, probably New Jersey‘s most fabled venue for this kind of music. The avant instrumentalists were promoting their last record, Scream of the Iron Iconoclast (At a Loss Recordings), and as ever, their live presentation brought extra excitement that their recorded output was lacking. There’s something about just watching them play.

Guitarist Yanni Papadopoulos, bassist Alexi Papadopoulos (think maybe they’re related?) and energetic drummer Cheshire Agusta don’t ever have an expensive light show or videos playing behind them — there isn’t really any spectacle to what they do on stage — but seeing them go back and forth with their quirky jazzified doom adds an appreciable element that is lost on the average disc listen. Even with eyes closed, trying to soak in each and every note of new album, Sacrifice and Bliss (once again At a Loss).

That’s not to say nothing has changed in Stinking Lizaveta. Bolstered by Sanford Parker‘s production, the sweet tones of “When I Love You” that transition into the first of several excellent guitar solos from Papadopoulos sound full and engaging, and where the band’s music has always had a kind of limited appeal — to musicians or a certain brand of the stoner faithful — Sacrifice and Bliss feels more welcoming than past output. As someone who wasn’t that into Scream of the Iron Iconoclast, the difference is palpable.

Mr. Papadopoulos hard at work.Of course, the transitions between parts will still be too manic for many, even if it is a kind of drugged mania, but part of what has always made them stand out has been their ability to shift direction with virtually no notice. There should be a clich? for that. Something about a sword with two sides maybe, I don’t know.

Another guitar god solo comes in the title track — the kind Patton Oswalt talks about having the ability to change the physical properties of things — and though the album is only a vinyl-ready 40 minutes long, it’s clear Sacrifice and Bliss will appeal to anyone who’s been into what Stinking Lizaveta have done in the past. It’s a fittingly weird situation where you almost already have to have been a fan to be one, but if there’s ever been a time to discover them, I think it might be this album. The occasional use of recurring parts, as on the chunky riffage of “We Will See” and elsewhere, makes it just an inch more accessible to newcomers than it might otherwise be, and as such, the record is well in the “worth checking out” category.

As their surprisingly long tenure continues and Stinking Lizaveta maintain their reputation as an artistically sound, consistently touring band, they seem to be less bending to structure than bending structure to them. They’re rigid entirely within their own parameters, like living in an alternate dimension where everything is red. My issue with past albums has always been never going back for repeat listens, but there might just be enough teeth-sinking depth on Sacrifice and Bliss to avoid that this go around. Only time can tell. Stinking Lizaveta have certainly done theirs.

Weathering the storm. (Photo by Steven Woolard)

Stinking Lizaveta on MySpace

At a Loss Recordings

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One Response to “Five Reviews/One Day Pt. 1: Stinking Lizaveta, Sacrifice and Bliss

  1. I love Stinking Lizaveta! Gollum has played with them a couple of times. They are great!

    Everyone should definitely try to catch them playing out sometime!

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