Review - Austin Lounge Lizards
Austin Lounge Lizards
Caffe Lena, May 7
Seventeen years had gone by since the Austin Lounge Lizards, the fun-pokin’
pickers from Texas now celebrating their 30th year together, had played
Caffe Lena, or “Caffe Layna” as they kept mispronouncing it. It’s too
bad they haven’t been around more often, Southern speech impediments and
all, because the quintet occupies a unique niche in acoustic music:
Their stock in trade is satirical and often leftist, politically themed
songs backed by tasty bluegrass instrumentation. Given how butt-ugly
national politics has gotten lately, the Lizards’ merciless lampoonery
was, for me at least, much-welcome comic relief.
Lizards opened with Lindsey Eck’s “Too Big to Fail,” a populist swipe at
the Federal bank bailout. “I want to be too big to fail, I want to steal
and not go to jail,” sang Card. Tom Paxton had already used that idea in
1980, though, with “I Am Changing My Name to Chrysler,” written after
Congress loaned the ailing auto giant $1.5 billion during the Carter
“Life is hard, but life is hardest when you’re dumb,” began the next tune, sung by Pittman. At first I thought the song a bit unkind—hey, we can’t all be smart enough to choose the glamorous and lucrative career of a traveling folk musician. I stanched my bleeding heart later on when the band bandied Sarah Palin’s name about.
“Jesus Loves Me (But He Can’t Stand You!)” took aim at Christian fundamentalism. With lines like “God loves all his children, by gum. That doesn’t mean he won’t incinerate some,” the song mocked what the Lizards obviously see as the absurdities of Biblical literalism.
“Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers on Drugs” was another satirical broadside, which derided the scapegoating of illegal immigrants by the far right, and compared the US-Mexico border fence to the Berlin wall.
Funniest of all, however, was the nonpolitical “Hey Little Minivan,” a send-up of the Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coupe” sung by Card. Replete with cooing back-up harmonies, the juxtaposition of the wild kid whipping around hairpin turns in his fuel- injected hot rod who grows up to be a tame, middle-aged guy boasting of his SUV’s climate control and lumbar support seats was a scream.
Gotta laugh to keep from crying over the news headlines? Then these jaundiced-eyed jokers are your guys.
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