Originally published in the Hindu Sunday Magazine in June 2012.
Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix
Columbia/Sony Music International
Back when HBO was still into comedy, they put Jack Black and his friend Kyle Gass on TV, in a show that followed the exploits of a band called Tenacious D. After the short lived series, they became most famous for parodying the culture of rock n’ roll with a song called ‘Tribute’.
Now, after a feature film and album called ‘The Pick of Destiny’, the band open a new chapter with ‘Rize of the Fenix’, which takes a look at their post-fame capers. The self-titled album opener shifts through too many movements, tempos and sounds, all the while detailing how the band intends to stage a comeback.
If you have seen ‘School of Rock’, you know Black is quite vocally gifted. On this album, you can hear him channelling a lot of rock’s greatest, including Ronnie James Dio, Neil Diamond, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen and Axl Rose; Even the music is a tip of the hat to every era of rock – from glam to psychedelic to good old rock n’ roll.
They cover all grounds on the comedy stage, from the straight up raunchy in ‘Low Hangin Fruit’ to geek humour in ‘Deth Starr’. They glue it all together with two hilarious self-mocking skits about music abilities called ‘Classical Teacher’ and ‘Flutes and Trombones’.
The short songs are way more memorable than the longer ones, because they grab on to a melody and stretch it out to just over a minute. ‘Rock is Dead’ and ‘To Be the Best’ are perfect examples. ‘The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and The Rage Kage’ sees them reach a new level of self-parodying, with a fictional tale wanting to draw from reality – which narrates the highs and lows of the rockstardom of the duo.
A lot of ‘Rize of the Fenix’ has a Foo Fighters vibe thanks to Dave Grohl returning to do record drums. It’s a pity he doesn’t reprise his trademark role of Satan, probably an invocation Tenacious D feel they have overdone.
Granted, it is generic, but it’s comedy rock n’ roll with a lot of references and jokes that would get any chuckles from any rock fan – Jack Black’s mimicry, the filthiest jokes, and Kyle Gass being the straight man in the comedy while also strumming away to glory.
If nothing else, this album may sound like a lot of standard tunes, but the stories are the best part. ‘39’ and ‘Roadie’ help Tenacious D teach us what rock n’ roll has always been about – the women, the road and of course, the music.