Tenacious D’s latest record blurs lines of quality and humor
The Santa Clara
November 8, 2018
There are two types of people in this world: those who need their poetry to rhyme, and those who prefer the spontaneity of free verse.
Of course, a wild card category also exists for people who might enjoy the questionable rhyming of words like robot with…robot. If you fall into this latter category, Tenacious D’s new album is the perfect musical fix.
“Post-Apocalypto,” the fourth record from the Grammy Award-winning mock rock band, follows the desperate struggles of the two bandmates—actors Jack Black and Kyle Gass—as they traverse a hellish, post-apocalyptic Earth.
The resulting album—part musical record and part radio drama—boasts a shockingly vulgar array of songs featuring numerous scatalogical references and thinly-veiled innuendos.
On this acoustic-rock odyssey, listeners encounter a variety of one-of-a-kind (and only occasionally humorous) imagery—such as a lonely terminator or a monster named Cracka Lacka Ding Dong. Most unexpectedly though, this comedy album generates genuine musical emotions.
With Black on vocals and Gass on acoustic guitar (and legend Dave Grohl lending his considerable talents to the thumping drums), Tenacious D’s sparse use of instrumentals allows for a focus on the simple pleasures of thoughtful chord changes and the overt—yet frequently poignant—lyrics.
The faux-innocence of Black’s voice—cultivated from his childish personas in films like “School of Rock” and “Nacho Libre”—lends a surprisingly sentimental feel to the record. In fact, in tracks like the early “HOPE,” Black nears the tenderness he achieved in his notorious comedy, “Nacho Libre,” and just misses the sappiness of saccharine songs like that film’s “Forbidden Nectar.”
The standout hit from the album, “TAKE US INTO SPACE,” feels like a Roy Orbison epic—if Orbison’s entire life experience stemmed from Adult Swim reruns. Recalling the Big O’s posthumous hit “You Got It,” Gass’ clanging guitar hits the right notes to transcend the sophmorishness of the lyrics describing the band’s high-falutin plans for life on a space station.
“ROBOT,” another strangely sentimental tune, captures the isolation of a discount Arnold Schwarzenegger terminator when the band refuses to accept him as a new member. “But no one understands / the feeling inside when I have an empty hand” laments the lonely robot as a sweet orchestra stirs sadness in the listeners. Complemented by the spirited music, the juvenile lyrics become genuinely emotional.
Other record highlights include the energetic “WOMAN TIME” and the redemptive “COLORS,” the latter of which spotlights a harmonically sophisticated recorder duet that inspires the naive immaturity and nostalgia of both the instrument and the band itself.
Unfortunately, the album begins to lose its sliver of focus with the marching of a horde of Ku Klux Klan members in the aptly titled “marCH,” but the lack of entertainment provided by the KKK is not something to complain about.
The rest of the album feels rather perfunctory, as if the band needed to finish their work before being called in for dinner and hastily cranked out a few more singles in Garageband to round out the record.
That said, for a band that insists on pronouncing the name of the Hungarian city as “Budapesht,” “Post-Apocalypto” provides a surprisingly emotional listening experience.
Amidst the crowded and crass imagery of the lyrics, the simple, stripped-down instrumentations occasionally stir sadness and hope in listeners. Even though each of the short songs feels like the product of a less-than-five-minute improvisation session, Tenacious D’s fourth album proves that authenticity—not overproduction—drives the spirit of music.
Contact Brandon Schultz at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.