The idea of a third Tenacious D album feels undeniably awkward. The comedy rock duo, Jack Black (Jabbles) and Kyle Gass (Rage Kage), were left in a paradoxical position when the long promotional tour for second album and debut motion picture, The Pick Of Destiny, ground to a halt. The D had successfully transitioned from cult phenomenon to a legitimate cultural touchstone of the 21st century. Oddly, however, their second album spawned no major hits and nothing to rival signature anthems "Tribute" and "Fuck Her Gently".
Instead the D’s second album endured disappointing sales and produced cult favourites "The Metal", "Master Exploder" and "Dude I Totally Miss You" as opposed to top ten singles. Huge festival dates and rock star embraces quickly followed as the D’s commercial powers seemingly waned. More confusing still, The Pick Of Destiny provided a natural conclusion for The D. Their mythical origin story revealed; Jack and Kyle seemed perfectly poised to hang up their comedy rock boots and power slide off into the sunset.
For his part Jack Black appears keenly aware of the group’s somewhat unstable footing. "Rize Of The Fenix" addresses both the critical panning the duo’s movie received, and the perceived failure of the group as musicians, if not as stars. A Who-meets-Rush odyssey effectively ushers in The D’s new raison d’etre; to joke around just for the sake of it and write Top 10 or Top 40, or hell just Top 1,000 hits.
Unfortunately, Rize Of The Fenix is light on laughs, and even lighter on hits. Jack and Kyle remain expert classic rock satirists and everyone from the Foo Fighters ("Low Hangin’ Fruit") to Bruce Springsteen ("39") is given a fawning skewering. If anything Black’s sense of humour seems to have become lost beneath his new found compositional wizardry.
Luckily, "Roadie" manages to encompass the best of both worlds. Jack’s delivery is suitably enigmatic, the subject matter is preposterous, and the arrangement is unnecessarily epic. "The Ballad Of Hollywood Jack And The Rage Cage" is another highlight, as The D return to their most fertile ground: self mythologizing. Jack tells a winding tale (rejected screenplay?) of Hollywood excess and dejection over a sexy "Hotel California" style beat before exploding into a prog-epic complete with a twee flute breakdown straight from the Middle Ages.
Aside from the two obvious centrepieces ("Rize Of Fenix" and "The Ballad Of…") the album is mainly comprised of hit and miss filler ("Deth Starr", "Rock is Dead") and lazy cast offs that feel either entirely unfinished or purpose built for a movie that’s yet to be greenlit. "Throwdown" is generic fight music, "They Fucked Our Asses" is a climax to nothing in particular, and "To Be The Best" is the latest in a long line of 70/80s training scene spoofs that pale hopelessly next to Team America’s "Montage".
Directionless and unfocused, Rize Of The Fenix does not feel like a work six years in the making. Instead the unshakable image of a scuppered screenplay and a cobbled together LP prevails. Saved by some expert parodies and Jack’s brazen charisma, Rize Of The Fenix offers little more than the usual array of dick jokes. Ultimately, the album’s worth will largely depend on how funny you find the following lines: "She Needs A Dentist Appointment Quick, I Pay For It And She Suck’a’ma’dick. When We Text Each Other I Fiddle With My Anus – IIIIIIIIIIIIII Sick My Finger In It".
Buy If: You fancy some parody prog complete with knob jokes.
Avoid If: The idea of Jack Black’s humour without the hits sounds like hell.
Best Track: "The Ballad Of Hollywood Jack And The Rage Kage".
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