Music Reviews
Rize of the Fenix

Tenacious D Rize of the Fenix

(Columbia) Rating - 7/10

Has the D turned into Kansas?  That’s what it sounds like after a couple of spins of their eponymous opener, Rize of the Fenix.  It’s got stops and starts, heavy riffs and all the virtuoso playing that made those corporate prog heroes famous. But don’t worry, on the follow up Kyle and JB are as pathetic and sexist (what’s wrong with being sexy?) as ever on Low Hangin’ Fruit, which describes the kind of chick they are after.  What did you expect?  Look, this is going to come down to two basic questions – “Is this new album funny?” and “Does it Rock?”. 

The first thing to say is that despite his explosive mainstream success in recent years, Jack Black refuses to phone in a D performance.  In fact it’s obvious this particular project is close to his heart because at times he’s actually in danger of trying too hard to sell the comedy.  JB isn’t exactly known or admired for his subtlety and we usually count on him going overboard for laughs, but here the presentation is so forceful, grand even, that a key element of the character is missing.  In the context of the D, Jack is ambitious, conceited and deluded, but also a tried and true slacker who prefers time on the couch with a spliff to actually taking considered steps to pursue his dreams.  Instead, here he explicitly acknowledges his success, especially relative to Kyle’s continued obscurity, on the folkie dirge, The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage.  I give them credit for remaining “true” to their particular situation (the first line of the album is “When the Pick of Destiny was released it was a bomb”, a tip of the cap towards brutal honesty) but it’s probably just a simple fact that songs about misguided losers are funnier than songs about misguided superstars.   It also doesn’t help that they’ve amped up the production values ever so slightly, which tends to have an inverse impact on laughs. 

But rest assured, the D still delivers the goods.  I won’t spoil any of the jokes by quoting lines here because it’s better to be pleasantly surprised by Jack’s flagrant sexism and pomposity.  One thing you’ll get a kick out of is the way they incorporate diverse styles from primarily 70s and 80s rock sources.  For instance, the whole joke in To Be the Best is the TV theme song quality of the sound.  Also, there’s probably nothing funnier in the Mexi-tinged Senorita than the opening trumpet fanfare.  And I can imagine Jack describing the sound of closer 39 as Bruce Springsteen boning Jimmy Buffet in the ass (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  In terms of song topics, KG and Jables continue to self-mythologize like nobody’s business, and they continue the great tradition of rock tunes about “the road” with a song called, what else, Roadie.    

All in all, it delivers the chuckles and a few guffaws, even if they are hitting up against the law of diminishing returns.  Their secret weapon has always been the ability to write catchy tunes and that, fortunately, remains intact.  I could of done with a couple more spoken word riffs, but you can’t have everything.  Let’s hope the D keeps flying high, “on the wings of an eagle!”