Home and Deranged, Austin Lounge Lizards

Missing longtime member Tom Pittman, but none of the knee-slapping fun, the Austin Lounge Lizards’ fizzy Home and Deranged takes on such typically topical subjects as airport patdowns, big-ego music stars, fat-cat bankers and government conspiracy theories. 

It’s like mixing the hippie politics of Country Joe McDonald with the absurdist humor of Frank Zappa with the front-porch picker’s brilliance of Earl Scruggs, the result of which is a concoction that would perhaps only bubble up from Central Texas — where the state capital’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird.”

Vocalist Hank Card remains, well, a card — stringing together another series of delightful double entendres, notably “My Bonnie Johnson” (a Celtic tribute to a sailor’s, well, you get the idea). Meanwhile, Conrad Deisler, as per usual, offers some of the album’s sharpest elbow jabs, even while keeping it blessedly offbeat. The guitar/mandolin player joins in the songwriting of tracks like “Black Helicopters” (which connects 9/11 with a fake moon landing and, of course, the inside-job killing of JFK), the country-music spoofing “Got a Big Stupid On” and “Spelunking with Joe King Carrasco” (a brilliantly layered, corrido-inflected ballad about, well, you get the idea).

“Thank You For Touching Me There,” a brilliant send-up of the Transportation Security Administration’s handsy ways, combines both central impulses — puncturing government overreach even as it reaches for some place decidedly naughty. “Too Big To Fail,” meanwhile, follows a series of left-leaning, though somehow still universally hilarious takedowns from over the years, including “Gingrich the Newt” to “The Ballad of Ronald Reagan.”

Home and Deranged, due on May 7, 2013 from Houston’s Blue Corn, is the Austin Lounge Lizards’ first studio effort in seven years, and first since the departure of banjo/dobro ace Tom Pittman, who has retired to Asheville, N.C. — though he did co-write “Black Helicopters.”

Pittman is ably replaced, however, by fiddle/mandolin player Darcie Deaville and bassist Bruce Jones. Both make note-perfect contributions: for Deaville, it’s a poke in the eye of romance with tracks like “Who Needs You?” and “If I Saw You All the Time,” while Jones takes over for “I Lied,” “Dumb Dumb Dumb” (a kind of second chapter in the narrative started on their classic “Life is Hard, But Life is Hardest When You’re Dumb”), and the album-closing “Would You Like To Start a Band?”