Austin Lounge Lizards

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The Austin Lounge Lizards at the 2013 Texas Book Festival.

The Austin Lounge Lizards are a band from Austin, Texas formed in 1980. The band includes founding members Hank Card and Conrad Deisler, along with Darcie Deaville (2008) and Bruce Jones (2010). The third founding member, Tom Pittman, retired from the band in the spring of 2011.

The band started out experimenting with folk but was still heavily country in its style, combining the bluegrass form with which Pittman was familiar with the progressive-themed folk rock Card and Deisler had been accustomed to. Between the members a large number of different instruments have been played, including a rich variety of string instruments such as the banjo, mandolin, and fiddle.

The band got its name because, Deisler explained, "I think it was a slang term I'd heard my grandmother use to describe gentlemen of easy virtue who hung around in bars. When we started out, that's just what we were doing—hanging out and playing for beer and tips and stuff like that." The Austin Lounge Lizards began by playing covers, but eventually they wanted to move towards trying to write their own songs.

The sound became less country and progressed more to politically aware songs. The songs they wrote tended to be humorous in an extremely off-beat way, in addition to their political nature, in a way reminiscent of Country Joe McDonald's Fixing to Die Rag. These songs tend to have primarily liberal messages, "The Ballad of Ronald Reagan", criticizes the Republican American president, while "Gingrich the Newt" criticizes the then Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich. One of their most famous songs, "Saguaro" co-written by Ann Clardy and Michael Stevens former bass player, is based on the story of David Grundman, who died from shooting a cactus (see cactus plugging).

All the group’s members contribute to songwriting, but the two principal songwriters have been Card and Deisler. Card’s lyrics often rely on clever word plays, double entendres, and off-beat but sometimes poignant narratives about ordinary life. His most frequent subject matter is love, especially comically forlorn yearning. (Example: The Dogs, They Really Miss You.) Deisler’s lyrics, in contrast, focus on the existentially absurd, often combining absurdly unexpected pairings (such as making Richard Petty the subject of a surreal Luis Buñuel film) as well as pitiable, sometimes lovable characters bewilderingly unaware of their own absurdity and oddness (Example: Wendell the Uncola Man). A recurring theme is the inanity of country music clichés, for example the "we were happier when we were poor" trope exaggerated into absurdity in "Love in a Refrigerator Box". Deisler's lyrics also marry comedy with a remarkably dark vision of humanity and its future (Example: Bonfire of the Inanities).

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