Tenacious D functions best when it leans more towards nostalgia-infused hard rock with a comedic edge, like on their self-titled debut, where mocking subject matter (anal sex? the "best song in the world"? Rocking harder than Dio? Taking down City Hall?) is secondary to the insanely catchy riffs and infectious variety of noises Jack and Kyle can make with their voices. Like most musical comedy, it needs to have at least a little validity as a stand-alone tune without the humorous bits. Thus where the debut succeeded, the follow-up, Pick Of Destiny
, failed-- the memorable melodies of "Tribute" and "Friendship" did not have any true successors, at least in my book. Perhaps it was the forced movie tie-in, or the fact that many of us were literally sixteen years old when we were spinning "City Hall" and later had matured enough to at least know that Tenacious D was a bit below the level of, say, a "real" band like Arcade Fire. But pretense aside, the D remain one of the best comedy-based rock bands out there, and to see them stumble over the years was a bummer.
But with Rise of the Fenix
, they show a bit of self-awareness (even name dropping Arcade Fire as a band to beat, albeit comically), and their sincere humility matches well with their repeated schtick of megalomaniacal exclamations. The sketches don't add much (you won't find an "Inward Singing" here), but some of the songs come significantly closer to being drunken sing-alongs than any of the forgettable anthems of Destiny
. Songs like "Senorita," "Roadie," "To Be The Best," and the title track, despite the heavy dose of laffs, get to a point of rollicking. Although they don't quite crack the original collection-- I suspect nothing will at this point-- for a new generation of potential D fans, it's a much more true-to-form series of crass, catchy rock 'n roll, and one we can put our gut behind and bellow: long live the D. They may be fat, vulgar, and completely irrelevant to pushing the boundaries of music's possibilities, but sometimes don't you just want to sing along to an entirely implausible, gently crafted ballad about how to bang someone