M.A.S.T.E.R.s – Tenacious D

1 May

You there! Do you like things that are awesome? Are you a fan of things that are equal parts hilarious and bad-ass? Do you like to kick-start your day with deep-knee rock squats, or an invigorating cock-pushup?

If so, then you’re probably already a Tenacious D fan – even if you’ve never even heard of them. If no, then I strongly advise you to stand up, stretch your arms out above your head, and back away from the computer as fast as you can. Shout loudly. Pretend it’s on fire, or that the keys have suddenly revealed themselves to be a mass of writhing tattooed beetles, that’ll help. Trust me, if you don’t, your tiny brain will not survive the coming onslaught.

Jack “JB” “Jables” Black and Kyle “KG” “Rage Kage” Gass are the Two Kings of Comedy Rock, and their newest effort, Rize of the Fenix, is the final chip knocked off their gleaming marble busts, proudly flanking the entrance to our Temple of Titans.

Rize of the Fenix is the duo’s first album since the tie-in LP to their film, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. It was billed as “THE GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME”, so that should tell you something. It’s been six long, desolate, barren years since we’ve bathed in the noise and fire of the D. We’d pulled ourselves by our fingernails through a wasteland of watered-down mass-market chaff, gasping through cracked lips for someone to save us. We’d gone so long without rocking, we forgot what it even was.

Well, sound the silver trumpets! Release the eagles! Frolic naked in the streets! Tear your shirts and lift your skirts, motherfuckers, The D is back!

Rize of the Fenix‘s thunderous title opener skips roguishly between explosive, fast-paced classic Tenacious rocking and smears of languid acoustic jam, woven with smooth-ass vocal harmony. The rest of the album follows suit, displaying the hook-heavy songwriting style that makes The D so approachable, and the hilariously obscene lyricism and explicit sketch comedy that makes The D so nasty. (Nasty, here, is meant in the makes-mom-blush, steals-your-girlfriend, inspires-confusing-unintentional-boners sense.) Sex and food, as per usual, are major recurring themes. Curiously absent, however, is any mention of The D’s cheeb of choice; some drug references are made over the course of the album, but their typical nods to cannabis culture are nowhere to be found. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t feel as though something was missing – but it’s a minor quibble compared to the glittering firmament of the album as a whole.

I want you to look closely at that majestic bird. Don't...no. Don't think about it. Just look. Look.

The album is due to be officially released on May 15, but thanks to a leak from a Russian website (fuggen Russkies, man. First the subs, then the websites. Lay off the Stolichnaya, comrades), Rize of the Fenix was released to the world a bit earlier than intended. Instead of complaining or trying to fight it, Tenacious D embraced this adversity and rolled with it, releasing Rize of the Fenix in its entirety for free, more than three weeks before the album’s release date. Please visit the above link to preorder the album and celebrate The D’s indestructible integrity.

Choosing favourite tracks to tell you about is a wholly futile endeavour, because I’m pretty sure every track is my favourite. Consider Roadie, a moving ballad to rock’s unsung heroes (the “wanton warriors searching for a soul”), or Señorita, a Latin-infused Tele Mundo trumpet-and-guitar eargasm you can well imagine Sofia Vergara enjoying. Deth Starr takes The D to atmospheric heights of doomsday sci-fi rock, while To Be The Best thrusts a challenging pelvis at Push It To The Limit for my favourite 80s montage music ever. Each track pokes a sausagey finger into a different genre pie, rounding out into a flaky, well-produced product. KG’s own fingers are nimble as ever on the acoustic riffs and he contributes some genuinely inspired straight-man antics in the sketch sections (particularly Classical Teacher, in which Jack – disguised as Spanish guitar maestro “Felix Char” – sexually disturbs him in an attempt to revitalize what he perceives to be KG’s slacking chops). Dave Grohl is a welcome return on drums, bringing his usual trademark intensity.

It’s Jack, though, who really shines here, with the sparkling divinity of a holy vision. His theatrical singing style really showcases his unbelievable range, from the growly basso profundo rock voice he uses for The Ballad of Hollywood Jack And The Rage Kage to the soaring high screamers of To Be The Best. JB proves that neither The D’s six-year hiatus nor the fact that he’s now over forty have stunted his vocal virtuosity in the slightest. He’s powerful, controlled, and creative with his singing, applying a professional comedian’s timing to a seasoned musician’s craft. Check him in a recent performance of the American national anthem and tell me he’s not leagues better than the friggin’ hobos they drag off the street to sing it for the NHL playoffs. He’s still one of my favourite singers ever, and Rize of the Fenix gives him yet another excuse to unleash that psychedelic feral tiger.

My only disappointments with Rize of the Fenix are to do with length. The D plant their sonic seed deep into your ears, making you crave more of their delicious fruit, but they disappear as quickly as they came, like a coquettish courtesan hiding behind her oriental fan. To Be The Best, for example, will change your life, but is far too short at a just over a minute long. The worst offender is They Fucked Our Asses, which takes a minute building a shudderingly badass intro that continues into…nothing. The song ends just as it begins. The album weighs in at a reasonable 13 tracks, but when the majority are under three minutes, you start to feel cheated.

That said, the “less is more” philosophy is put to work here, and it shows, because there are quite literally no low points to the album at all. It’s distilled, concentrated, and juicy, delivering everything a D-votee will expect – perhaps just in small portions.

There’s something to be said for the energy necessary to create true acoustic rock. You have one acoustic guitar – maybe two – and some drums, and vocals, and that’s it. Tenacious D takes those meager elements and fuses them in the furnace of their passion, and the ensuing blitzkrieg melts faces like a pyromaniac dermatologist. True, they often use electric guitars, bass guitars, and keyboards to round out their studio sound, but at their heart Tenacious D will always be the duo: JB and KG, guitars strapped to their backs, striding hand-in-hand into the sunset.

That heart – and that invincible, lifelong, all-enduring bromance – are why Tenacious D deserve to be counted among the M.A.S.T.E.R.s. Bow before them, brush your lips across their proffered ruby-rings, and they will grace you with music the likes of which you’ve never heard, and will never forget.


One Response to “M.A.S.T.E.R.s – Tenacious D”

  1. jamescummings May 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Love the review, Jojo. I particularly like the Russian reference.

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