Category: Tenacious D

Tenacious D come back with ‘Rize of the Fenix' to rescue rock

Tenacious D's Jack Black and Kyle Gass ‘Rize' like the ‘Fenix' from the aftermath of ‘The Pick of Destiny.' Their goal? Nothing less than saving rock music.

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Tenacious D rehearses in a grim-looking practice space on a desolate industrial strip deep in the San Fernando Valley. A string of twinkle lights works in vain against the gloom of the room. The vaguely creepy atmosphere is exactly where you'd expect to find a rock band as obsessed with Satan as Tenacious D is.

Or at least it would be if the band weren't fronted by a comic movie star whose last several films -- including "Tropic Thunder" and the "Kung Fu Panda" pictures -- have together raked in well over a billion dollars, according to Box Office Mojo. Jack Black laughs off such celebrity exceptionalism.

"In a way, it's more fun the rougher it is," the singer-actor said on a recent afternoon at the rehearsal space. Black and his bandmate, Kyle Gass, had finished practicing for an upcoming tour (they play May 23 at the Santa Barbara Bowl) for their new album, "Rize of the Fenix," and were lounging on a pair of lumpy sofas. "That's where we came from before we had an album: shooting little videos in the desert for 50 bucks."

"There doesn't seem to be a relationship between budget and comedy," Gass mused. "In fact, it might be inverse."

"Right," Black agreed. "Would ‘Beavis and Butt-Head' be funnier if it was done by Picasso?" He shook his head. "Less."

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

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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