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From the Country Standard Time Archives

A word from the Lizard Kings of laughter

The Neighborhood Church, Pasadena, Cal., March 13, 1998

By Dan MacIntosh

PASADENA - Although the Austin Lounge Lizards are excellent musicians, they are known mainly for their comedic social commentaries, skillfully set to country and bluegrass flavored songs.

And much like many stand-up comedians, who may attempt to document their nightclub routines on disc, Lizard material always comes off funnier live.

That principle certainly held true when this quintet of southwestern reptiles played a small church in Pasadena to support "Employee of the Month," their latest release.

Opening with the apocalyptic-sounding "Highway Café of the Damned," about a road meal from hell, the Lizards then merrily slithered through a silly collection of songs not nearly as foreboding as the title of their first song.

Although all five of these tough-skinned Texans are funny in their own unique ways, Richard Bowden (on fiddle and mandolin), Conrad Deisler (acoustic guitar) and Tom Pittman (banjo and pedal steel) provided the lion's share of the evenings musical sparks, while guitarist Hank Card and bassist Boo Resnick traded barbs and lead vocals.

Country flavored selections like "Stupid Texas Song" which bemoaned the glut in the marketplace of pro-Texas songs and the bluegrass road travelogue "Rocky Byways" provided the template for the stylistic territory of the Lizards' primary musical stomping grounds.

With the rock & roll of "Rock & Roll Lawyer" and the Beach Boy harmonies of "Hey, Little Minivan," though, they let it be known that the jukebox in the Lizards' Lounge is stocked with much more than just country 45s.

For these jokesters, almost everything is fair game for parody. The new age California lifestyle was lampooned with "Hot Tub of Tears," and organized religion was laugh fodder in "Jesus Loves Me (But He Can't Stand You)."

But the best of the Lounge Lizards' songs concern themselves with mirthful meditations about the musical life, and musicians themselves.

Country purists might one day be persuaded to start a grassroots social movement with the lyrics of "Put the Oak Ridge Boys in the Slammer, " and folk fans may have a hard time ever listening to Leonard Cohen with a straight face again after hearing Tom Pittman's dead-on imitation of Old Len with "Leonard Cohen's Day Job."

Dressed in a black turtleneck sweater and standing erect with a poetic faraway look in his eyes, Pittman had this well-informed folk audience in stitches.

The song tells the story of what life might be like if this tower of song were to take a day job as a car mechanic in order to glean inspiration from the common people. Drawn from the group's new album, it contains an abundance of hilarious lines:

"If Saint Joan should pull in, in her Charger of white/And ask if it all could be finished tonight/I'd say, 'Let me take a look under your hood/All that smoke doesn't look very good.'"

Of course even a martyr like Joan of Arc might have engaged in a few hearty belly laughs on this night, because these Austinites were smokin,' and they clearly remain the Lizard Kings of Laughter.