Our top 10 songs from The Lounge Lizards look at the catalog of an American band that impacted the avant-garde jazz and no wave music genres. Established in 1978, The Lounge Lizards were active in the music scene for about two decades—the band’s last musical venture was its fourth studio album Queen of All Ears in 1998. Over the years, The Lounge Lizards underwent multiple lineup changes with tens of musicians having been associated with the band throughout different incarnations.
However, the band’s founders, saxophonist John Lurie and pianist Evan Lurie (John’s brother) maintained pledged their presence in all of The Lounge Lizards’ lineups. Other bands/artists that joined The Lounge Lizards in impacting the no wave scene include Sonic Youth (early musical pursuits), Swans (in the early ‘80s), Glenn Branca, and Bush Tetras among others.
The Lounge Lizards’ Career Beginnings and Breakthrough
The Lounge Lizards is the brainchild of saxophonist John Lurie, a figure whose contribution to the band makes him almost the most conspicuous member of the band. Initially, The Lounge Lizards were viewed as a fake jazz act that embraced pop as avant-garde rock tendencies. The Lounge Lizards went ahead to earn critical acclaim in the US (especially in New York) after the issue of their eponymous debut studio album in 1981.
The Lounge Lizards’ Album Releases over the Years
As mentioned above, The Lounge Lizards issued their eponymous debut studio album three years after the band’s formation. Joining the Lurie brothers in the band’s lineup were bassist Steve Piccolo, drummer Anton Fier, and guitarist Arto Lindsay. The quintet issued Lounge Lizards through the mow-defunct label E.G. Records—production of the album was handled by record producer/composer/saxophonist Teo Macero. Teo has also worked with a number of artists including Michel Legrand, Miles Davis, Charlie Byrd, Charles Mingus, and Kenyon Hopkins among others.
Lounge Lizards was an all-instrumental record that showcases the band’s excellence in churning out exquisite avant-garde jazz ballads. “Ballad,” “Incident on South Street,” and “Do the Wrong Thing” are some of the best songs from The Lounge Lizards on this album. Lounge Lizards also features outstanding cover songs by The Lounge Lizards including “Harlem Nocturne” by Ray Noble, “Well You Needn’t” and “Epistrophy” by Thelonious Monk.
Six years later, The Lounge Lizards returned with their sophomore studio album No Pain for Cakes. No Pain for Cakes is a nine-track record whose production was handled by saxophonist John Lurie. Ted Jensen gave his input on this record having featured as the mastering engineer. Jensen has also worked with multiple other artists with his earliest works being with Climax Blues Band, Eagles, and The Chi-Lites. “My Trip to Ireland” and the album title track are the most popular songs from No Pain for Cakes.
Voices of Chunk, issued in 1988, marked the band’s third studio album. The album serves as an extension of The Lounge Lizards’ avant-garde jazz pursuits. Among the most renowned artists featured on this record include guitarist Marc Ribot who also featured on No Pain for Cakes. Other than his solo career, Marc Ribot has also collaborated with other prodigious artists including Elvis Costello, John Zorn, and Tom Waits.
As depicted in our list of the ten best songs from The Lounge Lizards, Voices of Chunk is one of the most sought-after records by the band. However, the critical acclaim didn’t translate to commercial success. “Bob The Bob,” “Voice of Chunk,” “Tarantella,” “The Hanging,” and “Uncle Jerry” are the best songs from The Lounge Lizards from the album.
Eventually, The Lounge Lizards returned ten years after with their fourth and last studio album Queen of All Ears. The album was co-produced by John Lurie and the Grammy Award-winning record producer Pat Dillett. Pat Dillett is distinguished for his work with multiple outstanding artists including Laurie Anderson, Mariah Carey, Nile Rodgers of Chic, Mary J. Blige, and David Byrne. “The First and Royal Queen,” “She Drove Me Mad,” “The Birds Near Her House,” and “Scary Children” are the best songs from The Lounge Lizards featured on Queen of All Ears.
The Lounge Lizards’ Other Musical Pursuits and Legacy
Despite being inactive since the start of the new millennium, The Lounge Lizards remains an influential avant-garde jazz/ no wave band. The band earned a cult following thanks to its outstanding musicianship. John Lurie issued several records with his 1999 album The Legendary Marvin Pontiac: Greatest Hits being his most conspicuous. Here we usher in the ten best songs from The Lounge Lizards.
# 10 – The Birds Near Her House
We introduce the ten best songs from The Lounge Lizards with the appealing hit “The Birds Near Her House.” The song is one of the most sought-after releases off the band’s 1998 studio album Queen of All Ears. “The Birds Near Her House” is one of the longest songs by the band spanning over eleven minutes—the song is the longest on Queen of All Ears. The song serves as a perfect introduction to The Lounge Lizards’ avant-garde jazz musical explorations. It is the impressive melodic lines weaved into this song’s rhythm that make the song a true masterpiece.
# 9 – One Big Yes
Voice of Chunk is by far The Lounge Lizards’ best attempt at issuing a prodigious experimental jazz record. Introducing us to the band’s musicianship on this album is the hit “One Big Yes.” The song features some driving riffs complemented by throbbing drums that add to its atmospheric feel. “One Big Yes” is one of the four songs from Voices of Chunk that made it to our list. We can’t help but notice the remarkable sax tunes by John Lurie—fans of John Coltrane would definitely love musical pieces like “One Big Yes.”
# 8 – Do The Wrong Thing
Coming in at the eighth spot on our ten best songs from The Lounge Lizards is the phenomenal hit “Do the Wrong Thing.” The song is one of the most sought-after hits off the band’s 1981 eponymous debut studio album. “Do the Wrong Thing” was composed by John Lurie and the band’s then-bassist Steve Piccolo. This frantic high-energy musical affair is an emblem of The Lounge Lizards’ appetite for experimental jazz in the early ‘80s.
# 7 – Tarantella
If you thought experimental jazz wasn’t danceable, then you have it all wrong! “Tarantella,” a dance-oriented track from Voice of Chunk, helps redefine The Lounge Lizards’ approach to avant-garde music. The song presents to us the band’s whimsical side of The Lounge Lizards spicing the band’s musical pursuits with some danceability. It sounds amazing hearing the band members spice up the song with a quirky tongue-in-cheek refrain—that’s one of the most anticipated moments in this song by the band’s fans. “Tarantella” remains one of The Lounge Lizards’ most lively releases, hence becoming a concert favorite!
# 6 – Incident On South Street
Number six on our ten best songs from The Lounge Lizards is the haunting hit “Incident on South Street.” The song serves as the album-opening track to The Lounge Lizards’ 1981 debut studio album Lounge Lizards. “Incident on South Street” brings the best of Evan Lurie’s keyboard skills. John Lurie’s saxophone tunes beg for attention seconds before Arto Lindsay makes an attempt to steal the show with his alluring guitar riffs slightly above two minutes into the song!
# 5 – The First And Royal Queen
Queen of All Ears, the band’s fourth and final studio album, is home to the fifth pick of our ten best songs from The Lounge Lizards, “The First and Royal Queen.” The song serves as the album-opening track introducing us to exceptional avant-garde jazz sounds by the band. Spanning almost four minutes, “The First and Royal Queen” was composed by John Lurie who also delivers some smooth saxophone tunes. “The First and Royal Queen” features some rhythmic and harmonic riffs that charge the song with extra glamour.
# 4 – No Pain For Cakes
Only one song from the band’s sophomore studio album made it t the final ten best songs from The Lounge Lizards. That song is none other than the album’s title track. “No Pain for Cakes.” Of course, we left some musical gems such as “My Trip to Ireland” and “Bob and Nico” which have also proved worthy of mention!
However, “No Pain for Cakes” manages to steal the show ranking fourth on our list. This comes not as a surprise having the band invest heavily instrumentally on the song. Other than the band members’ input, “No Pain for Cakes” features the input of violinist Jill Jaffe and baritone saxophonist Anders Gardmand. More to that, the over six-minute song, “No Pain for Cakes,” finds The Lounge Lizards pushing the boundaries of experimental jazz.
# 3 – Harlen Nocturne
We return to the band’s eponymous debut studio album, home to our third pick “Harlem Nocturne.” The music to this hit was composed by Earle Hagen with English jazz artist Ray Noble being the first to record the song. John Lurie guides his fellow bandmates into turning this song into one of their most popular musical gems. Other artists who have covered this song include The Viscounts, King Curtis, Randy Brooks, and Herbie Mann.
# 2 – Voice Of Chunk
Remarkably genius! These are two words enough to describe the hit “Voice of Chunk.” “Voice of Chunk” brings the best of The Lounge Lizards’ experimental jazz—the song solidifies the band’s input in the niche genre of avant-garde jazz. This remarkable track is a combination of refined harmonies blended with smooth melodies which blend yielding a luscious musical masterpiece worth its spot on this list.
# 1- Bob The Bob
Number one on our ten best songs from The Lounge Lizards is the alluring track “Bob The Bob.” The song is the most sought-after track from the band’s third studio album Voice of Chunk. Spanning slightly over two minutes, “Bob The Bob” is the archetypical song to The Lounge Lizards’ impactful experimental jazz sound.
This gentle and incredibly smooth track kicks off with a silky saxophone line which is soon after complemented by exquisite piano riffs. Its driving rhythm sections blend perfectly with its playful melody enough to brand this hit The Lounge Lizards’ signature hit. “Bob The Bob” makes a perfect template from which avant-garde jazz artists can draw inspiration.
Feature Photo: Steven Pisano, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Songs By The Lounge Lizards article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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