If you’re familiar with Tenacious D, then you probably know what to expect from ‘Rize of The Fenix’, and you’re probably excited. Jack Black and Kyle Gass know exactly the music they want to play, and they play it right. What they lack in virtuoso musicianship, they more than make up for in creativity, composition, and, well, absolute hilarity. These guys are students of rock, they know how to compose a song, and they’ve brought along a backing band – including Dave Grohl on drums – which they know when to defer to. The result is a high-energy rock and roll album that follows the traditions of the rest of Tenacious D’s catalogue in being catchy, fun, and hilarious.
‘Rize of the Fenix’ can probably be considered a musical sequel to ‘The Pick of Destiny’, while also incorporating a little bit of reality into the storyline. The first song and title track explains the premise of the album: The Pick of Destiny was a bomb, and the critics declared the band done. This is all relatively true – the film ‘The Pick of Destiny’ only brought in a little more than $13 million dollars, compared to an estimated $60 million dollar budget. Many in the media speculated that Tenacious D would take the back burner in order to allow Jack Black film’s career to blossom. But now, the D has returned to rise again, and all they need to do it is one hit. The title track is the epitome of Tenacious D, mixing genres and tempo, starting with a slow heavy build before jumping into a stadium rock power anthem.
It’s tough to really consider the ‘Rize of the Fenix’ a true rock opera, because while there is definitely a general overall concept, many songs appear with no regards to a story. For example, the second track, ‘Low Hanging Fruit’ – an ode to the easy girls. The lyrics begin slightly ambiguous, until Black bluntly states, “Because the high-class fruit is not gonna fuck me/but the low class fruit is sweet chunky monkey”. Are the lyrics brilliant? Not always. Are they effective? Absolutely.
Tenacious D’s songs tend to sound like tributes to specific genres of music or musical influences. ‘Senorita’ is a foray that delves into Spanish mariachi music, complete with trumpets and blistering acoustic guitars. Black narrates a story of a bar fight, where he defends a lady from a man who “harmed” her with a brief interlude to allow Black and Gass to act out the fight in hilarious form (Black: “Hey, did you just tell me to go fucking fuck myself?”), before the song kicks back in to finish the story. This is one of the many songs on the album that seems like it was created to be a music video. It tells an entire story from beginning to end.
‘Deth Star’ takes a completely different angle than ‘The Pick of Destiny’ track ‘History’. While ‘History’ was the band’s “chronicle to their rise to power”, where they eventually lead as two kings, ‘Deth Star‘ is the story of the bands dominance in a future space world. The song starts off with a slow, grungy verse talking about the world’s problems like pollution, and overpopulation, before completely changing pace into a hard rock explanation of the creation of a ‘Deth Star’ that would start a new population of people with a new religion.
One track that stands out for it’s lyrical content is ‘The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and The Rage Kage‘, which in power ballad form tells the pretty accurate story of Jack Black going to Hollywood and leaving Gass behind, while he brooded at home, jealous.
“And he grumbled and growled and watched Hollywood Jack on Jay Leno
He bellowed and said he’d be nothing without help from Kage
He burned up the photos of Jables and Kage doing mushrooms
Fuck em’, I don’t need Hollywood Jack anyway”
With Jack Black erupting into one of the biggest movie stars in the world, this is a subject that no doubt every long time Tenacious D fan has pondered. How does Kyle Gass feel about the rush of success that his partner has ascended to? No matter how fictional this account may actually be is unknown, and while the fact that Black sings it on the album probably means that there was no animosity, but the fact that the subject was touched upon in the form of a song makes it seem very realistic.
‘To Be The Best’ is a short quick tribute to 80′s movie montage music. The Rocky, Karate Kid, power synths and exaggerated lyrics make this track one of the more memorable on the entire album. Black’s voice almost completely transforms to pull off that douchey 80′s rock voice. The whole track is a keeper, one that will probably played ironically in dorm rooms for generations.
Arguable the best track on the album is the closer, ‘39’; an ode to the 39-year-old woman and the sexual exploits Jack would share with her. The real beauty of this track is Black’s voice seems to be influenced by a different artist on an almost line-to-line basis. The song seems very influenced by Neil Diamond, but at times it sounds like Jack is emulating Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffet, Bob Seeger, and Tom Waits among others”. It’s almost like you want to sit there and pick out the influences.
The hardest part of reviewing ‘Rize of the Fenix’ is really conveying how funny this album is. Quoting the album doesn’t really do the jokes justice, and to give away the best jokes would diminish them upon a listener. So, to make it perfectly clear, this album is hilarious. If you’re a fan of Tenacious D or just Jack Black in general, you will love this CD. This is not your average comedic album; this album will have you laughing out loud multiple times. Plus, the ‘Classical Teacher’ sketch is probably the closest thing we’ll get to ‘Nacho Libre’ ever again. Beyond just the comedy, the album rocks as well, a true double threat. Hopefully some more videos will be released, giving these songs some visual life.
‘Rize of the Fenix’ is due out May 15 but is available to stream here:
**Make sure you catch Tenacious D at Hammerstein Ballroom on June 28th!