Tenacious D is a comedy band fronted by two delusional fat guys who have no business being rock stars. That’s their whole shtick, but the joke is on us. Jack Black and Kyle Gass know more about classic rock and infuse it with more joy than 99% of the heritage acts still recording and touring. Here’s a track by track breakdown of their new album:
Title cut and album opener “Rize of the Fenix” is a tour de force right up there with their legendary “Tribute.” The song travels through several movements, never parodying bands like The Who but paying clear homage to them. The riffs are heavy, the harmonies are clean, and the lyrics are silly. In other words, it’s a perfect Tenacious D song:
Silly lyrics undercut the next track a bit too much. “Low Hanging Fruit” lyrically is about not wasting time chasing a ten when a three will do. Jack Black parodies his own scatting with an even dumber than usual breakdown, but again the song is hooky and cool and woke me up this morning in the form of an earworm.
Next up is one of the comedy sketches sorely lacking from the Pick Of Destiny album. As a kid I loved the Cheech and Chong albums — those great bits and characters that the duo put together. The D created some classics of their own on their first album, and it’s nice to hear Cage playing straight man to Jables again.
“Senorita” features some beautiful nylon-string guitar but suffers from reminding me of Nacho Libre. Some things are best forgotten.
“Deth Starr” plays on a sort of seventies singer-songwriter vibe that really works until the song breaks into D-like metal, at which time the joke seems too forced. Be even here I can’t help but admire Jack Black’s vocals. If as a musician he ever drops his guard in a manner similar to his dramatic turn in Richard Linklater’s Bernie there’s no telling what he might accomplish.
“Roadie” is the support crew companion to Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” by way of BTO’s “Let It Ride.” The song is the highlight of the album, and the best classic rock track in years. The video featuring Danny McBride is worth your time, too.
We get what sounds like a somewhat true story of Tenacious D in “The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage,” but who knows. It might just be another extended joke with a small kernel of truth. Central to the song is its cowboy ballad structure, and in that sense it is quite successful. It’s also a great opportunity to hear the great band backing Black and Gass.
“Throw Down” is a cool bluesy shuffle with hints of Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” in the chorus. It’s easily the straightest song on the album, and might be the only call to atheism you’ll ever hear with catchy hand claps.
If you’ve ever sat around in a living room with a couple of buddies, a guitar, and some beer you’ve written “Rock Is Dead.” Disposable but fun.
“They Fucked Our Asses” is a classic Tenacious D rant about The Man keeping the greatest band in the world down, but it’s really no more than an intro to the eighties montage song “To Be the Best.” This parody is so dead on that in its one minute running time I trained for a fight, rehabbed a house, and punch-danced out my anger.
The video is great, but if you just want to hear the song go to 4:27:
Bob Seger is back in “39,” or maybe Bruce. Or Tom Waits. I don’t know. The D’s tribute to middle-aged women is oddly honest in its attempt at humor. “Comfortable shoes never lose,” Black sings. “We can talk about some things.” Yes indeed, but please don’t talk about your phone sex habits anymore.
The Rize of the Fenix is a great third record from the D, and it is well worth your time. That being said, I hope one day to hear Black and Gass play it straight. I’m probably the only person on the planet who dreams of such a thing, but I think they are capable of making an album on par with their heroes, if not better.