By: Eric Greenwood
"I love you baby but all I can think about is kielbasa sausage your buttcheeks is warm." There are so many reasons why that line is funny, not the least of which is its utter absurdity. Such is the charm of Tenacious D. Jack Black and Kyle Gass are two fat guys with an affinity for cheesy 1970"s metal and, of course, Satan. Their humor springs from the crudest recesses of the mind and fires randomly from synapse to synapse, but they dress it up in such catchy tunefulness that you can barely contain your laughter or your awe.
Fans of HBO"s Mr. Show already know the deal with Tenacious D. They"ve been touting themselves the greatest band in the world for years. An acoustic duo that plays mock metal balladry calling itself a rock band – much less the greatest rock band in the world- is so completely ridiculous that you don"t know whether its part of the schtick or just a byproduct of their warped imaginations. It"s both, of course, and the music just might be able to convert you to discipleship.
Comedy albums tend to suck, as you probably know, but Tenacious D"s debut will not let you down. Hardcore fans of the duo worried that this album will be a major label ass-kissing and that the comedy will be dumbed down for the masses have nothing to fear. Black"s lunatic jester to Gass" na"ve straight man routine gels perfectly even without visual aids. The only obvious alteration to the formula is the presence of a full band. Foo Fighter Dave Grohl is on drums. Members of the Vandals, Red Kross, and even Phish help out too. The difference is enough to make shallow fans scream sell-out ("it"s different so it must be bad and a result of major label dollars"). That"s a bunch of crap. Electric or acoustic Tenacious D equals non-stop rocking.
Jack Black"s psychotic energy runs the show. He has an extremely versatile voice. Seriously, the guy can belt out the tunes. Anyone who saw High Fidelity knows what I"m talking about. It"s hard to fake soul. And wise white people rarely attempt Marvin Gaye covers, but Black knocked "Let"s Get It On" on its ass. And likewise, Kyle Gass is no slouch either. He runs the harmonies behind Black"s melodies and plays a mean acoustic guitar to boot. Tenacious D"s musical prowess will bowl you over. The songs are good. Really good. Take away the insane lyrics, and you"ve still got music worth listening to. Granted, it sounds like Journey being raped by Ronnie James Dio, but you have to admit that"s intriguing.
Tenacious D is known for its spontaneous banter in between songs on stage. It"s hard to fake that kind of dynamic in a studio, but the comedic interludes on the album live up to the precedent set by the loads of live mp3"s that have been making the rounds for years. "Hard Fucking" is a good example: "the ladies don"t really like the hard fucking/you feel like you"re giving them some extra juice/they"re not into that"maybe they are, though, into that"you know what the test is/you just say "get on top honey"you do what you like."" This segues nicely into the acoustic ballad, "Fuck Her Gently": "I"m gonna fuck you softly/I"m gonna screw you gently/I"m gonna hump you sweetly/I"m gonna ball you discreetly." Just seeing the words on the screen doesn"t even convey half of what"s funny. Black"s vocal intonation is hilariously insane. He turns on the histrionics full blast and mocks several generations of rock singers in a mere of four lines.
"Dio" is a Tenacious D classic. The brief power ballad intro builds into full-fledged metal might, replete with Black"s best amalgam of cliched metal affectations. "Dio has rocked for a long, long time/now it"s time for him to pass the torch/he has songs about wildebeests and angels/he has soared on the wings of a demon." Old school metalheads would be throwing goat and banging their heads to this without even realizing that they"re being mocked, albeit indirectly. On "Cock Pushups" Jack and Kyle talk about getting in shape for the ladies now that they have a record deal: KG- "how many pushups can you do?" JB- “Cock pushups?” KG- "I guess you could only do one, really." JB- "Yeah, one is all you need." This isn"t a case of the sad fat guys mocking themselves for your amusement. Black and Gass are cynical pop culture junkies with wits that are as insightful as they are offensive.
If there"s any drawback to listening to Tenacious D, it"s that you miss all the visual comedic nuances between Black and Gass. Their expressions alone can slay you- not to mention their jokes, but what this album lacks in visual comedy it compensates for with balls to the wall rock and roll. The other main problem with comedy albums is that once you"ve heard all the jokes it"s hard to keep the laughs fresh. But again, Tenacious D"s songs are crafted so well that you"ll keep coming back to them. It"s a comedy album and a rock album for the price of one. You can"t lose.