This week, we celebrated D-Day. THE FENIX HAS RISEN PEOPLE! Tenacious D, in their first album in years, has once again captured our hearts and spirits, using their rock to unite us all in eternal bliss! Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but what can I say? I am very caught up in the spirit of the D!
It is difficult to label the magical blend of music and comedy that comes from the mouths and guitars of Kyle Gass and Jack Black. Are they comedians? Rockers? Revolutionaries? Nay. All of the above. Tenacious D is currently the prime example of how well music and comedy go together, provided that they are both treated seriously.
Many have attempted to infuse comedy into their music and failed, treating it as some sort of novelty act. Remember Asher Roth and his whole, "look at my hilarious college shenanigans" bit? Man I'm glad that guy's gone. If the music isn't good, the jokes won't hit. Tenacious D are not successful because they are hilarious. They are successful because they rock.
Of course, they are not alone in their supremacy over the hybrid genre that exists somewhere in between comedy and rock. These are two forces that are tough to tackle on their own. Combining them is a dangerous experiment. With the release of Tenacious D’s third album, Rize of the Fenix, I find myself reflecting on the musicians who made us laugh and dance at the same time, and what a potent combination that can be.
Hollywood Jack and Rage Kage, like everyone else who has successfully managed to perfect the brew, have shown a relentless commitment to music before comedy. Their songs are catchy, KG can shred as well as any golden haired rock god, and I refuse to believe that Jack Black's earth shattering howl has never destroyed a PA system. But Tenacious D are not the two kings they claim to be in the genre. Princes, certainly, but we all know that the crown rests atop the curly haired head of Mr. Weird Al Yankovic.
Yankovic is known far and wide for his parody songs and lively costume-filled stage shows. However, the subtle captain of his ship is his band, whom he’s been playing with since practically the beginning of his career. Every night when His Weirdness takes the stage, he doesn’t just sing to some backing audio track. He has a crack team of musicians blasting out every note with expert precision. He's far more a frontman than a comedian, believe it or not.
Yankovic, and Dr. Demento before him, opened up doors for acts like Flight of the Conchords, who know how to construct a song as well as a joke. It’s the commitment that makes us laugh. It’s not hard to tell that underneath the character is just a guy who loves music.
The thing guys like Richard Cheese, Stephen Lynch, and yes, even Adam Sandler (whose Hanukkah songs are just as catchy as they are hilarious) have in common is that they all take great care with their music. Say what you want about Adam Sandler’s film career, but the guy can sing. Don’t believe me? Check out “She Comes Home To Me,” a filthy, NSFW love poem to a prostitute off of his album Stand and Judy’s Kid.
One evening in Camden, New Jersey, I was lucky enough to see the D live. The night was filled with dancing mushrooms, a walk through hell, and a backing band from hell consisting of Charlie Chaplain, Colonel Sanders, and the Antichrist (who looks a lot like the regular Christ). It was spectacular, but the highlight of the night contained none of that. For an encore, The Fellowship of the D, as they had taken to calling themselves, came out and did a medley from The Who’s 1969 masterpiece “Tommy.” Despite their titles of professional comedian, they did this with zero irony. It was 100% genuine.
Tenacious D are not hilarious because they are rock, they rock because they are hilarious. If you were looking for a Rize of the Fenix review, you won’t find one here. Just listen to it, because they’re Tenacious D, and they deserve 41 minutes of your time.