Rize of the Fenix
"When the Pick of Destiny was released/ It was a bomb/ And all the critics said that the D was done" kicks off the third album by the Tenacious D. Truth be told, 2006's The Pick of Destiny went gold, and the D's self-titled debut went platinum. Not too shabby. But then again, the self-styled "greatest band in the world" likely had higher expectations. And so did fans. 2001's Tenacious D was a rock solid, hysterical album. Comedy records typically don't feature great music. The aforementioned "bomb" of The Pick of Destiny (that accompanied the movie by the same name) didn't continue the consistent lyrical and musical genius of the D's debut. There were highlights, to be sure, but the album as a whole didn't reach the high bar the D set in their debut.
Tenacious D hope to return to their initial greatness on the aptly titled Rize of the Fenix. In fact, Jack Black sings "One hit/ one hit/ one hit/ yeah we're hoping this is it" in the opening title track. (That sorta happened: Rize of the Fenix debuted at number 4 on the Billboard 200 -- the D's highest chart yet!) "Rize of the Fenix" sounds like three songs in one. The six-minute track starts with choked acoustic guitar strums, builds into bright Boston-esque rock, and ends in a reflective, lush organ arrangement. The driving "Low Hangin' Fruit" follows the title track and illustrates the D's preference for, umm, women that others may not want. For all their "greatest band in the world" posturing, Tenacious D devotes a few songs to people others overlook. For example, the bitter protagonist of "Roadie" proudly proclaims "I make the rock go!" Tenacious D juxtaposes that with "The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage." Some have (angrily) wondered why the D took six years to release a new album, when it seems obvious: Jack Black is also something of a movie star. Of course, JB pokes fun at his success in the folksy "The Ballad" by singing "as Hollywood Jack climbed the ladder of stardom before him/ he watched as his indie credentials flew right out the door/ he'd make millions and then he'd go out/ and he'd make even more millions."
While all albums from the D feature sincere singing over silly lyrics, the vocals of Rize of the Fenix are top notch. Jack Black swings from singing partly in Spanish ("Señorita") to pleading for doctors to restore Rage Kage's sanity ("The Ballad"), to getting his Joe Cocker on in the mellow country of "39." Ironically, the stellar vocals only apply to the actual songs. The spoken skits fall flat. Jack Black putting the moves on Kyle Glass while pretending to be a guitar instructor in "Classical Teacher" is paltry compared to the vulgar brilliance of "Cock Pushups" from Tenacious D. Fortunately, the music saves Rize of the Fenix. The sassy two-minute ditty "Rock Is Dead" proves that rock is not dead. "Deth Starr" showcases the duo at its comedic and musical best. Tenacious D deal with the ravages of climate change by "boning all our friends" in the sky. The '80s metal Star Trek-like parody makes you proud to hear the band exclaim "the fuckin' D is back!" in the title track.