Musical comedy is rare these days. A few performers still work with political humor, while others excel at satire, usually cynical and mean-spirited. But the Austin Lounge Lizards come from a much older musical-comedy tradition: burlesque. This is the humor of outrageous exaggeration, in which trivial subjects are treated grandly and serious subjects are regarded frivolously.
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On the Lizards' eighth CD, Never an Adult Moment, the band pokes fun at politics, love, religion and Southern culture. The guys have an uncanny ability to pair disparate subjects. How about an artistic collaboration between Richard Petty, the king of stock car racing, and Luis Buñuel, the French surrealist filmmaker, on the song "The Illusion Travels by Stock Car"? Of course, songwriters Conrad Deisler and Hank Card ask us to take a rather large leap of faith: that Petty is Carolina's biggest fan of avant-garde cinema and that Buñuel is a rabid NASCAR follower. If you buy that conceit, anything is possible.
Other Southern references include "A Hundred Miles of Dry," a tune about the vexations of driving in alcohol-free East Texas; "Big Rio Grande River," which depicts a Mexican bandit with a twist; and "Asheville/Crashville," a wry look at "progress" in the Great Smoky Mountains. Then there's the track "Rasputin's HMO." Historically, the mad Russian cleric was a walking wounded, as dozens of people sought to poison, stab and overdose him. The Lizards imagine what might have happened if the grievously wounded Rasputin had gone to his HMO for medical treatment.
The Austin Lounge Lizards
McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk
Two shows on Friday, December 29 (713)528-5999
The black comedy continues on "Hillbillies in a Haunted House," which is based on a bad movie by the same name. The tune is about 80 bumpkins who get killed in the oddest ways -- by giant rats, crawling eyes and sticky black goo. You've never heard a merrier song about mass murder!
The band's precise four- and five-part vocal harmonies and tight bluegrass instrumentation serve as the perfect foil for its offbeat humor. Twenty-five years ago the Lizards were probably the wittiest guys in the frat house. They've simply grown older and funnier.