Tenacious D - Post-Apocalypto (Review)

Martin_Canine
TENACIOUS D
Post-Apocalypto
★★1/2☆☆

So this is it. The album we’ve been waiting for, for six years now. I admit, at first it throws you back right into that distinctive style of the D, and even after it is finished, the disappointment doesn’t immediately hit you. Actually, you are kind of pleased. You were already worried that they would follow the path of so many successful rock bands and just switch towards a more chart oriented, poppy style, but no, stylistically, this is the same band we grew to love. But then, when you let the project sink in, you feel it was kind of empty.

To those who are not familiar with this band, who are probably looking at the cartoonish South Park-ish cover and wonder what style of music this group might be, let me explain. Tenacious D is a comedy rock duo consisting of Jack Black and Kyle Gass. You probably know the former one best as an actor from movies like Year One, Tropic Thunder or School of Rock, as well as from.some family movies such as Goosebumps, or as a voice actor. He’s often funnier than the comedy movies he stars in, but he also plays the leading role in one of my favorite flicks of the genre, Shallow Hal, one of those movies with laugh out loud, silly slapstick humour as well as a heartwarming message, and he has his share of decent family entertainment. Kyle Gass also appeared in that film in a very small role. Oh, and Tenacious D. also have a movie of their own featuring songs of their second and best album, The Pick of Destiny, which is also the movie’s title - musical guest appearances by Meat Loaf, Ronnie James Dio and Dave Grohl included.

Although Jack Black has always been a popular film star since I remember, little people over here knew that he also had a band, until in 2012 their third album Rize of the Fenix became a big commercial and critical hit (it hit number 2 on the charts and the music video of the title track was on TV a lot) and catapulted them to star status. The music of the duo was the perfect outlet for Jack Black’s charismatic performance, being a man with a natural talent for silliness, and an expressive voice that, when he sings, gets raspy like he just swallowed sandpaper (fun fact: when you’re watching a German dub of his movies, he has the same voice actor as Brad Pitt, Forrest Whitaker, Robert Downey Jr. and Gary Sinise, among others - one of the best and most memorable German voice actors by the way, Tobias Meister). Also, in his music he wasn’t bound to the PG and PG-13 ratings his films usually have. This album was the last we heard of the duo, though. It actually comes to little surprise that it took them six years to come up with a follow up, after all, their first three records arrived in an eleven year time span. Only that this time the outcome isn’t quite worth the wait.

Post-Apocalypto may share all essential elements and gimmicks that made their previous efforts so enjoyable to listen to - here’s the same over the top sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle, the same anti-conservatism, the same intentionally cheesy epic storyline, the same us-against-the-world mentality, and, of course, the wonderfully random gags and character appearances - and also the style is (positively) largely the same, some damn fine hard rock with an ironically dramatic performance that makes the goofiness all the more enjoyable while at the same time giving the listener something musically good to enjoy. But here is where we find the biggest misstep of Post-Apocalypto: there is not much music.

Arriving with 21 tracks, the record lasts for only barely over 30 minutes - furthermore, 8 and a half of the tunes are merely spoken skits. Admittedly funny ones, but nevertheless does it often feel the songs support the dialog instead of the other way around, especially considering that only 3 of the tracks last for over two minutes. At many parts, it feels that the duo didn’t manage to actually finish the project in time and instead of delaying the release decided to leave us with an incomplete product.

An explanation for this weird, half baked state Post-Apocalypto is in may be that it came along an animated 6 episode long web series (if that’s an accurate term, it’s more a script read over a slideshow of doodles). That would be an explanation, yet not a proper excuse. The Pick of Destiny shared several traits with this release, being a soundtrack and lasting for roughly 34 minutes while containing 15 tracks. But off these we at least got over 33 minutes of pure music (there was only one 22 second skit), with most of the songs, spare a few interludes, feeling complete and well structured. In the end, what you got was the experience of a full album. Post-Apocalypto is over when you just start getting into it. On each of their albums, there was at least one song that was epic tone, sometimes also in length. Their debut record had City Hall, their sophomore album had both Kickapoo and Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown) and Rize of the Fenix had its title song. On Post-Apocalypto we hardly get a track that passes as a whole song.

It’s less an actual soundtrack rather than an abridged audio book of the series, which interpolates a few song fragments into the loose story. They may appear in the show in this form, but it wouldn’t have harmed extending each for a minute or two, as several other soundtrack albums do as well, and reduce the talking. It’s hard to tell whether the show promoted the album or the other way around, but it’s safe to say that the new music was far more anticipated. What makes Post-Apocalypto most frustrating is that the little amount of music we get is actually really good. Again, the sheer comedic lyrics team up with a professional and even somewhat catchy hard rock outfit, but before we can get truly attached to the tunes, it’s already over.

Now, to be fair, there are albums with fairly short songs that I gave positive or even euphoric reviews to. But it all comes down to whether the songs, and the album in its entirety feels complete. In genres such as punk or hip hop, which don’t necessarily depend on a traditional build up, you can make fairly short songs that don’t feel like it in the most positive way, because everything you need for a full song has already been said in 2 minutes. Which, of course, doesn’t mean that these styles of music can’t have great, fairly long jams as well. The songs that Tenacious D prepared for us feel like they would build up to something and then just stop as if they skipped the main part. There was one song on Rize of the Fenix, with a title that’s quite explicit, that has this phenomenon as well, but as I said, it’s one song (there are other shorter tunes as well, but they feel just as finished as the longer ones).

That doesn’t mean Post-Apocalypto is a complete miss. Hope and Making Love, both appearing early into the album, feature the D at their best. The songs are very well performed and leave a lasting impression both musically and lyrically - the former would actually make a good opener in a more serious rock opera as well, the second one takes the idea of a sex song to new extremes. And one thing that, even though it heavily disappoints as a music album, can’t be denied is that the skits are really funny.

Comments

Woah, Jack is back with this? Sucks that it was a disappointment though. - Mcgillacuddy

Really liked their past albums and was happy they were back with an album and the old sound, but this barely passes as a full length record, even less than Kanye's five pieces - those did have few songs, all of which were complete, but this album's tracks sound unfinished. - Martin_Canine

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