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Album review: Tenacious D's 'Rize of the Fenix'

May 15, 2012 |  1:11 pm

Tenacious D is lead vocalist and guitarist Jack Black, left, and lead guitarist and vocalist Kyle Gass, right. Their new album
Humility must be a new feeling for Tenacious D. The schlock-rock comedy duo became actual arena stars with its 2001 debut, an adoring send-up of yesteryear’s codpiece-rock titans cemented by actual drumming from Dave Grohl. The duo then hit an ironically true-to-form second-album slump with 2006’s “The Pick of Destiny” and an accompanying film flop. But Jack Black and Kyle Gass licked their wounds for “Rize of the Fenix,” and made an even deeper meta-joke of an album: They’re parodying the idea of the comeback record, while earnestly hoping it works.

In the time since their debut, music fans under age 25 have essentially stopped caring about big-budget rock music, a truth the D addresses pretty forthrightly on “Rock Is Dead.” Much like Black’s sagging teacher in “School of Rock,” this album lives its joke about redemption and returns to past glory. “To Be the Best” tweaks inspirational ’80s-movie-montages with era-perfect roto-toms, and “The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage” flays classic tales of band infighting and reunions.

Tenacious D works because its music is as good as the stuff it parodies, and it’s easy to imagine the ode-to-declining-hookup-standards “Low Hangin’ Fruit” or blowin’-stuff-up anthem “Deth Starr” actually making traction on KROQ-FM (106.7). When sincere rock music is DOA on the charts, is it too late to wonder whether the D is the genre’s last true defender?

“Rize of the Fenix”
Tenacious D
Columbia
Two and a half stars

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-- August Brown

Photo: Tenacious D is lead vocalist and guitarist Jack Black, left, and lead guitarist and vocalist Kyle Gass. Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times.

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