HEADLINES

Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix

The opening riff of Tenacious D’s latest effort is one that might fool the listener. While at first it seems typical of what has come to be expected of the Californian duo – a simple, acoustic melody backed up by Jack Black’s characteristically over the top vocals – the electric guitars and drumming soon storm in, and the song undergoes a swift transformation. Suddenly, the riff is a heavy gallop that wouldn’t be out of place in something like Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind, and Black’s voice is a dramatic metal cry.  This hard-rock overhaul is symbolic of the album’s style as a whole, which, for the first time, showcases Tenacious D with a high production value. Ultimately, we are reminded that despite the silly comedy visage, Black and Kyle Gass are actually incredibly talented at what they do.

However, as is always the case with the duo, their work must primarily be considered one of parody, and driving the sound of this album is the wide range of styles that are satired. From the openly senseless, Spanish-influenced ‘Senorita’, to the obscure fusion of an 80s movie montage and Judas Priest-esque metal that is ‘To Be the Best’, the band are as keen to mock now as they were when they told Ronnie James Dio “You’re getting old, we’re taking you to a home”.

Where the band really comes alive however, is when they focus on spoofing the biggest rock clichés. ‘Roadie’ and ‘The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage’ are clear caricatures of the Guns n’ Roses type ballads that the world has been subjected to since the mid-80s; whereas ’39’ is a straight send up of folk rockers Springsteen, Waits and Dylan – the duo pointing out how any nonsense can sound like a theatrical, tearjerking masterpiece – as long as its backed up folk riffs, power drumming, a southern accent and some vague reference to a woman… even if the song does focus more on the aforementioned woman’s ‘drooping boobies’ than her unrequited love. While ridiculous, these parodies are also undeniably catchy and surprisingly respectable in their musical craft, partly due to the powerful drumming offered by Dave Grohl, a semi-regular contributor to the band.

But I’d like to haul back the serious praise for a little while here, because Tenacious D is still, at its heart, two big kids left to their own devices in a recording studio; and while this release is lacking in the excessive innuendo that fans of the band may be accustomed to, there is still a healthy dose of nonsense to be had.

Its hard not to find yourself smirking when listening to Black scream ‘We’ve got to blow that alien quid bitch to another dimension’ with utmost melodramatic sincerity in ‘Deth Starr’, a five minute mini-epic that calls back to ‘City Hall’ on the band’s 2001 self-titled debut. Likewise, the token scat vocal solos are as inexplicably hilarious as ever, and the comedy skit tracks of  ‘Classical Teacher’ and ‘Flutes and Trombones’ bring the laughs, especially when the duo lament over how they’re considered ‘almost as good as Arcade Fire’, and Black feels the need to take on the persona of a Spanish guitar tutor who is a little too friendly, to say the least.

The culmination of all this is makes for a strong mix of humour and musicianship that provides an easy listen. It feels quite short, and a couple of the tracks are more forgettable (I could do without ‘Throw Down’), but despite Black’s cries of the band’s ‘fiery champion’ hearts and ‘riding on mighty steeds’, no one was honestly was asking for – or expecting – a masterpiece. The D know their audience – they’re nonsense parody rock for the sake of nonsense parody rock, albiet with a decently strong, hard-rock core. As long as you have a sense of humour, and are willing to view the album as parody, this is the sort of sound you don’t really get tired of listening to.

★★★★☆ 


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About Josh Gripton

Josh is an English student currently studying English Literature with Creative Writing at University. When he's not wasting time on his Super Nintendo, you'll find him listening to classic rock and metal and reading graphic novels. He hopes his work at The Silver Tongue will help him get his writing out to the public and professional world.