Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix

Sigh. It comes with great reservation that I write this review. Listen, it is not like I do not like to laugh. I am a funny guy. Ask Charles. I can be jolly and even whimsical if the moment calls for it. Things do not have to be serious all the time with me. Watch as I make this child laugh with silly faces and a rattle. My reservation with comedy bands is the tendency for their fans to only listen to the parody more or even instead of the genre it was born from. Spinal Tap is funny but is nothing without a knowledge in 80’s heavy metal. Dethklok is the same with extreme metal. Listening to MC Frontalot rather than any other hip hop is a cultural crime. Acts which hinge themselves on lampooning humor are fine given the right amount of craft, tact, and knowledge base to make the jokes endearing. This is why we have to move to Tenacious D.

Everyone knows Tenacious D is Jack Black and Kyle Gass. The act was born from a television show related to the Mr. Show Universe. The duo’s self titled debut was half composed of songs from the show re-recorded in a studio setting. The albums from Tenacious D came between gaps of what seemed like great inactivity almost leading to a complete forgetfulness that the band even existed. The duo’s second record Pick of Density was the soundtrack to a feature length film which I had to be reminded was even made. Regardless of what seems like a half hearted side project, Tenacious D returns with their third record Rize of the Fenix.

Both Black and Gass wear their influences on their sleeves. Throughout Rise of the Fenix are nods, tributes and irreverent love letters written to their hard rock idols. Led Zepplin, AC/DC, Jethro Tull, Guns N Roses, and anything which passes for VH1 metal all populate the album in either ceremony or blatant plagiarism. Tenacious D exalts an era where rock songs glistened in clean production, swooned in ballad form, and could just be as heavy with an acoustic guitar. I haven’t laughed at a Tenacious D record since their 2006 debut and I write this with slight hesitation because I am still stifling giggles.

The funniest aspect of Tenacious D has always been the production. It is not the skits nor the raunchy humor or even when Jack Black swears like a 12 year old at a pool hall. The endearing comedy in Tenacious D has always been duo’s comedic songs amplified to the level of serious rock anthems with the same level of craft seen in the works idolized. Rize of the Fenix retains this aspect flanked by the usual suspects of juvenile humor. There is an amazing pan flute section in “The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage” and a surprisingly convincing Survivor montage anthem in “To Be the Best.” Even by the book blues rockers like “Throwdown” and the ridiculous “Rock is Dead” feel genuine and ultimately work. Just like “Tribute” and “Wonderboy” from their debut, Tenacious D’s humor lies in a balance between ridiculous demeanor and competent songwriting. This is the same thing which made Ween and Flight of the Concords so lasting. There are of course, other songs.

It is 2012. There is no need for comedic skits on records. It is not funny when hip hop albums used to do it nor when Lonely Island continues to do it. Sorry, it is a stupid medium which mires a record’s longevity to the point of not being funny for the whole 40 seconds. Sadly, this vein of humor runs throughout Rize of the Fenix soiling the decent parts in fecal anarchy. “Lady of 39,” while making an ode to Tom Waits, painfully details sexual encounters with middle aged women. “Senorita” while promising with its mariachi premise collapses with a weak plot. Even decent songs like “Roadie” which laments the unsung hero of rock concerts feels strange as I can not remember the last time when I did not see the band carry their own equipment. This small criticism is not rooted in some hip pretention rather a disparity between two dimensions of rock.

But listen, calm down, it is suppose to be silly. One of the biggest criticism of comedy albums is also its saving grace. It should not be evaluated like a regular record. Rize of the Fenix does, for the most part, what it intends to do. It made me laugh at parts while wishing it was something 10 times more. Tenacious D does not take the place of new heavy metal nor even the hard rock gods they put so high on pedestals. It is, for a moment, a 40 minute respite which can illicit the occasional smile. Fuck it, I’ll give it to em. Bravo guys.

Rize Of The Fenix
Low Hangin’ Fruit
Classical Teacher
Deth Starr
Flutes and Trombones
Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage
Rock Is Dead
They Fucked Our Asses
To Be The Best

POST SCRIPT: It has been a few weeks since I wrote this and I feel I need to be honest In saying this record has not left my car’s cd player nor has it failed to make me laugh each time it plays. Bravo guys.

Tenacious D - Rize of the Fenix, reviewed by Kaptain Carbon on 2012-06-13T12:47:29-07:00 rating 3.5 out of 5

One Response about “Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix”

  • Charles says:

    It’s true. The Kap’n is a wondrous swell of mirth. It should also be noted that the Kap’n and I will be reinventing the world of traditional Germanic folk grind with our blast-beat, scat act FECAL ANARCHY! Expect our debut flexi, “Show Me Your Sigmoid” b/w “Use My Third Nipple” in early 2013.