Album review: Tenacious D's latest a flawed soundtrack to a funny web series
It has been a long six years since comedy-rockers Tenacious D last made an album. "Rize of the Fenix" from 2012 was a solid entry in their discography, and, with it, the duo (comprised of megastar actor Jack Black and his cohort Kyle Gass) were able to return to some kind of glory after their 2006 movie "The Pick of Destiny" flopped grandly at the box office and stopped the two in their tracks for a while.
Seventeen years on from their now-classic self-titled debut record, the band has released another film/music project: "Post-Apocalypto." This time around, Black and Gass have gone completely DIY, working outside of the Hollywood studio system to produce a crude (in more ways than one), goofy, graphic, funny piece of work that's really unlike anything the band (or anyone else) has ever done. The images in the series were completely drawn by hand by Black, the duo acted all the characters on their own, and they wrote and performed all the music.
It's hard to talk about in a family paper such as this, but the series is somehow a visual culmination of a lot of Tenacious D's obsessions — video golf, sexual congress, evil beasts, the absurdity of politics, male friendship and love — all done with a wild, can-you-believe-we're-getting-away-with-this giddiness. It's bold and stupid and filled with heart, and the way the childish imagery mingles with the band's songs is hugely entertaining, even if it's not anything that will win awards.
The problem with the audio component of the project is that it removes a lot of what makes it interesting and fun. To put it bluntly: without Black's bonkers, full-penetration sex drawings, without his depictions of a Terminator-like robot mowing down scores of KKK members, with huge chunks of the dialog missing, the album version is a shadow of the series.
To begin with, the record is short, at 30 minutes, but when one realizes that about 10 of those minutes are comprised of audio snippets from the series, it's pretty clear that "Post-Apocalypto" is light on new songs. Furthermore, several of the tunes (see "Robot" or "Daddy Ding Dong") almost seem like non-sequiturs without the visuals. The songs are short — barely reaching two minutes in many cases — and they mostly don't stand up to the band's best moments on their own.
But here's the thing: There are some musical moments that are fantastic. "Hope" is a soaring, sparkling ballad featuring some incredible vocal work from Black, who remains a stunning vocalist. (He's really one of the best rock singers to emerge in the past 20 years, but the fact that his band is a comedy enterprise keeps him from being recognized as such.) "Making Love" is strangely sweet, as it finds Black having ... difficulty beginning the process of repopulating a devastated Earth due to his need to be in love with his potential sexual partners. "Take Us Into Space" and "Colors" explore the beauty of Mother Earth and of the variety of people who make up the human race while also exploring creative ways to use the F-word.
As a standalone album, "Post-Apocalypto" doesn't work. As a limited YouTube series, it's a hilarious, audacious work of lunacy that is Tenacious D to the core. Longtime fans will surely love it.
Artist: Tenacious D
Produced by: John Spiker
Personnel: Jack Black (vocals, guitar), Kyle Gass (vocals, guitar), other guests