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Rock - Released November 2, 2018 | Columbia

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Pop/Rock - Released November 6, 2006 | Epic

It's easy but not accurate to call Tenacious D a one-joke band, since they do love one joke best of all: that they are the greatest band in the world. It's a credit to Jack Black and Kyle Gass' strengths as writers and performers that at their best they can convince you it's true. Like the best comedians, the key is both in the writing and the delivery: jokes can be good on paper, but they need to be delivered with flair, and few have the flair of Jack Black, who has made megalomania inspiring, even adorable. That quality combined with serious vocal chops -- anybody who saw him on Mr. Show's "The Joke: The Musical" back in 1997 knew that he could sing -- gave Tenacious D both star power and musical substance, while Gass grounds it by giving Jack a comic foil, plus lead guitar and harmony. When it all gels, as it did on their short-lived HBO series and their 2001 debut, it's glorious, but even that 2001 LP indicated a problem with the D: when the scale gets larger, they get smaller, or at least their reason for being begins to unravel. Since the reason their joke works is that JB and KG are underdogs -- they're the best band in the world, it's just that the rest of the world hasn't figured it out yet -- when they're no longer underdogs, they're not quite as funny, or endearing. They're at their best when it's the two of them on-stage, playing acoustic guitars and riffing off each other. They're good enough that they can survive a bigger budget, as the debut illustrates -- it always helps to have Dave Grohl on your side, of course -- but a really big budget is still a problem, as the soundtrack to their big-screen extravaganza The Pick of Destiny proves. Jack and Kyle have been promising a cinematic venture chronicling their rise to power since they -- alright, since Jack turned into a star after stealing the show in the 2000 film High Fidelity, and 2006's The Pick of Destiny, made in collaboration with director/musician/prankster Liam Lynch, finally follows through on that promise. Leave aside the merits of the movie and compare the The Pick of Destiny soundtrack to the debut, and it's easy to see that this album is a very different beast than Tenacious D. That first album captured the essence of the original D -- the D that was nothing but Kage and Jables and their guitars -- but pumped up with heaps of electric guitars and thunderous drums from Grohl. It cribbed from a lot, but not all, of their standards, so it felt like a culmination of sorts: it finally felt like the D blossomed into a genuine rock band. In turn, The Pick of Destiny has greater ambitions -- appropriately for a soundtrack, it's big, sweeping, and well, cinematic -- but it doesn't feel like a breakthrough, since Tenacious D already took the D just about as far as they could go musically: it gave them muscle and might, it fleshed out their skeleton, sometimes a little bit too much, yet it worked because it sounded like this must be what JB and KG heard in their heads when they played on their own. There's no difference in sound on The Pick of Destiny, but the aesthetic of a soundtrack makes a huge difference. This may not be a concept album, but it's structured as a narrative, mirroring the plot of the movie. Unfortunately, this doesn't give The Pick of Destiny the weight or grandeur of a true concept album, because a lot of the music sounds as if it serves the movie, and doesn't stand tall when separated from the film. It's easy to figure out that songs like "Break In-City (Storm the Gate!)" and "Car Chase City" are plot points in the film, but it's not quite as simple as that: since most of the album consists of songs that run between 1:20 and 2:40 minutes, all the tunes kind of feel like narrative filler, even when they're melodic, memorable, and delivered with gusto by the D. And that's the crucial problem with the album: it's good, but it doesn't have the surplus of songs so great they sound like unearthed classics, which is the very thing that has always made Tenacious D so irresistible. Make no mistake, they're still great enough to rally: they revive "History," their indelible theme, incorporate "Sasquatch" into the deliriously atypical psych-pop "Papagenu (He's My Sassafrass)," offer a Dethklok-worthy ode to metalosity with "The Metal," and serve up two epics in "Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown)" -- served up as a duet with Dave Grohl, who plays Satan -- and the opening "Kickapoo," a tremendous mini-rock opera with cameos from Meat Loaf and Ronnie James Dio. Excellent moments, but it doesn't add up to a record that's as satisfying an album as the debut. This is a bit disappointing, but The Pick of Destiny is good as a soundtrack: a souvenir for fans of the film. That's enough for some portions of the legions of D-heads, but for some who have long loved the D, it's hard not to hear The Pick of Destiny and wish that it rocked both of your socks off instead of just one. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop/Rock - Released May 11, 2012 | Columbia

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Pop/Rock - Released September 25, 2001 | Epic

As anyone who witnessed their legendary shorts on HBO will attest, Tenacious D is indeed the greatest band on earth. Bad D is still better than the Beatles and good D is transcendent. Even so, Tenacious D's debut album will likely kick fans on their asses because the D is no longer just about JB and KG. They're even ready to be more than a power trio -- they're ready to be backed by a full band, complete with Dave Grohl on drums and the Dust Brothers behind the boards. After years of hearing them as an acoustic heavy metal duo, that's a real shock, but they've also overhauled their repertoire, reworking and retitling several songs and leaving many tunes behind. Most regrettably, there is no "History of Tenacious D," even if it is quoted in the liner notes, but there's also no "Rocketsauce," no "Kyle Took a Bullet for Me," no "Sasquatch," no "Cosmic Shame," no "Special Things," and no "Jesus Ranch." "You Broke the Rules" becomes "Karate," "Song of Exultant Joy" is "Kyle Quit the Band," "Sex Supreme" becomes "Double Team," "The Best Song in the World" becomes "Tribute," lacking many of the "Stairway to Heaven" allusions in this version, and so on and so forth (elements of their opening theme are incorporated into "Kielbasa," thankfully). Furthermore, the dynamic has shifted drastically because the group no longer sounds like maniacal misfits who've conquered the worlds in their own minds playing to an audience who just hasn't caught up yet. Here, they sound like victors who've had their delusions of grandeur come real (which is true when you think about it -- those shorts might not have done much on HBO, but videotapes passed through a lot of hands on the underground video railroad). This is a bigger change than you might think, and while the acoustic D sounds better, weirder, and purer, this still is a hell of a record, particularly because it rocks so damn hard. The worst thing about it are the sketches, which may be funny, but not nearly as funny as the plots that tied the shows together (nothing as funny as asides from the show, like "circle church," either) or the live routines; they tend to distract from the music. And the music is indeed what matters, since no matter how silly and gleefully profane this can be, Tenacious D rules because the music is terrific. The tunes have hooks, Kage and Jables harmonize well, and the cheerfully demented worldview is intoxicating, since their self-belief and self-referential world is delightfully absurd and warm (think about it -- the sex songs may be vulgar and may be about their prowess, but their prowess is about making those backstage Betties feel good). Sure, some listeners may chuckle because this all comes from two large, cute, 30-something slackers, but they're missing the inspirado behind this record -- Tenacious D certainly know they're funny, but that doesn't erase the fact that they rock so hard. They came to kick your ass and rock your socks off, and that is a very special thing. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop/Rock - Released January 15, 2016 | Columbia

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Pop/Rock - Released May 11, 2012 | Columbia

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It's no mystery why Tenacious D call their third album Rize of the Fenix. JB and KG suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune when they unleashed The Pick of Destiny in 2006, a feature film -- complete with an accompanying soundtrack -- that netted approximately no new fans and may even have cost them a few. Well aware of this bomb, it's imperative that the D fashion their third album -- arriving a long six years after Pick -- as a triumphant comeback, a Fenix rising from the ashes, if you will. And, for the most part, the D do succeed, the best moments of Rize of the Fenix easily flattening the bloat of The Pick of Destiny. If they happen to lose a bit of their sense of rampaging grandeur, they compensate with tightly constructed epics that impress by their lack of fat: the title-track suite gallops along with purpose, "To Be the Best" is a gleeful send-up of "The Power" (animated Transformers by way of Boogie Nights), "Roadie" is a heartfelt salute to its overlooked namesake, and country-rock closer "39" is an ode to an aging groupie. This is all, in the parlance of another of the album's highlights, "Low Hangin' Fruit." Tenacious D don't stray from their songs of rock & roll and songs of themselves, but considering the pit that they were in, they can't be faulted for being overly careful, even if that caution can make parts of the album -- namely the spoken skits, the staged blow-ups between Hollywood Jack and Rage Kage, and a few of the songs about rocking -- feel a little long in tooth. Nevertheless, Rize of the Fenix does amount to a rousing comeback for Tenacious D: they're back to their old tricks, oblivious to whether the world at large actually cares about their shenanigans. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 12, 2018 | Columbia

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 5, 2018 | Columbia

Alternative & Indie - Released October 19, 2018 | Columbia

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 28, 2018 | Columbia

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Rock - Released October 26, 2018 | Columbia

Rock - Released August 4, 2015 | Columbia

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Rock - Released November 14, 2006 | Epic

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 19, 2018 | Columbia

Alternative & Indie - Released September 4, 2018 | Columbia

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