‘Rize of the Fenix’, Tenacious D

Released 2012 on Columbia

The journey of Tenacious D has lead them through the dark depths of a terrible film, and a not-so-well-received soundtrack, but after six years, they have emerged once more into the public eye, and they have done so in a truly characteristic style; funny, self-aware rock, good musicianship, random skits, odd scat, and all that packaged up and emblazoned with a dick-shaped phoenix.

The opening track is exemplary: commencing with a groovy acoustic riff, Jack Black’s voice smoothes over the top. One by one, the rest of the band builds the song into a chorus, promising great things. A cut to a faster riff fills the song with energy that you can’t help but rock out to. The D is back. Musically, while Tenacious D has never been known to stray to far from classic rock territory, ‘Rize of the Fenix’ still hits the spot. The album is filled with crunchy licks and well-built songs, and Jack’s voice in particular has noticeably improved. Exhibit A: ‘They Fucked Our Asses” is essentially a forty second build-up to a spine-tingling rock scream. He maintains the ridiculous lyrics, even he his own brand of burble-scat, but now he has the edge of some seriously impressive vocal talent that sounds effortless. Some will find their approach unimaginative, the songs ‘Señorita’, ‘Rock is Dead’ and ‘Be the Best’ feel gimmicky, but they’re still good songs, and genre parody has always been a trope of the band’s comedy. The ending of ‘Rock is Dead’, for example, is hilarious – having summarised rock history in just over a minute, it takes around thirty seconds to finish the song.

It is this self-aware comedy, coupled with good music that has made the D entertaining. ‘Low hanging fruit’ and ‘Roadie’ satirise the business of rock, the former swears off hot models in favour of solid 3/10s, and the latter is an ode to the unsung heroes of live music. However, it is really the two skits, ‘Classical Teacher’ and ‘Flutes and Trombones’ that really mark a return to form – they intersect the songs with the pure ridiculousness that gave the D its name.

That said, the album isn’t perfect. For having been around for so long, Tenacious D have not changed very much, and it’s easy to get the feeling that they’d be just as funny branching out into other musical comedy. Sure, they’re progressed beyond dick-and-drug jokes, which has distanced them from becoming dull, but I can’t help but feel they’ve gone for some safe territory.

But one thing is for sure, Tenacious D has risen again from the ashes of a long silence, and the result is enthusiastic, funny and genuinely good music.

Review also published in the Oxford Student and on http://www.oxfordstudent.com 

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