not a member? click here to sign up
The optimum situation for playing this album in is at some kind of frat house initiation ceremony drunk out of your mind on applerot
Peter Murphy, 18 Jul 2002
Does anybody remember laughter?
You know it’s all gone to hell in a handcart when you start quoting Robert Plant ad-libs. Thing is though, damn-all pro rock bands seem to be having FUN anymore. Maybe there’s just too much filthy moolah at stake in the music business now for people to make throwaway records. Maybe the times just don’t lend themselves to apocalyptic bravado (not that the current period is any worse than say, the sacking of the Roman Empire or the Black Plague, but the constant sky-is-falling squawking of Sky and CNN always sucks the sourest milk to the top of the glass teat).
So, honorary exceptions like The Hives and the White Stripes aside, why do all the young droogs sound leaden of heart and mind? Where’s the frivolity? Not crap comedy records and novelty Euro-summer hits about chicken enemas, just a little Ah-what-the-fuck, a little wilful ridiculousness, a little gallows humour. False nostalgia is a pox upon the culture, but I must admit I sometimes catch myself yearning for The Cramps’ ‘Can Your Pussy Do The Dog?’ or The Ramones’ ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’. In fact, right now, hip-hop’s got more gas per mile than rock ‘n’ roll: Missy Elliott’s freak-on frug, Bubba Sparxxx’s butt-ugly beat science, Afroman, Eminem, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Outkast.
Once, you could at least rely on the heavy rock sector to provide class clowns like Motley Crue or WASP or Twisted Sister, but since the advent of the bedwetting generation, metal muthas have taken Eddie Vedder and Alice In Chains as their template, and your average metallic platter sounds more like a day on the shrink’s couch rather than a weekend at Sam Snort’s. When this works, as with System Of A Down, cool enough. When it doesn’t, it’s Creed and Nickelback and pass the barf bag please.
Enter Tenacious D, the spoof metal brainchild (or perhaps buttchild would be more apposite) of comic actor Jack Black and his buddy Kyle Gass. This is Spinal Tap – and yet not. If the first rule of parody is a genuine love for the subject you’re ripping the piss out of, then Jack and Kyle drink deep from the fragrant cowboy-booted foot of corn-fed 70s and 80s macho metal: Ronnie James Dio, Manowar, the fuckin’ Nuge, Molly Hatchet etc. So yes, Tenacious D is a merciless send up of chest-wiggery, but it also glows with a strange sort of reverence. Bear in mind that there are a whole lot of teenagers to 50-somethings who first broke their underpants to the kind of “I set her upon my prancing steed” beefcake rawk pastiched here.
I’m not going to spoil this album for you by retelling all its jokes badly. If you’ve seen the single ‘Tribute’ on the tube, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Stoopid shit, but funny. Random sample – the sword and sorcery skit ‘Wonderboy’, delivered with scarily obsessive attention to Uriah Heep detail.
“High above the mucky muck/Castle made of clouds/There sits Wonderboy/Sitting oh so proudly” croons JB like Ian Gillan on mushrooms, before getting down to the real nitty gritty: “Now it’s time for me to tell you about Young Nasty Man, arch rival and nemesis of Wonderboy, with powers comparable to Wonderboy/‘What powers?’ you ask. How about the power to kill a yak from 200 yards away… with mind bullets!”
There’s also a we-are-not-worthy paean to Ronnie James Dio and one for the ladeez called ‘Fuck Her Gently’ and a whole bunch of souped-up southern boogie Harley Davidson highway hymns (“The road is fucken hard/The road is fucken tough…”). Need I go on?
How they managed to pitch such nonsense to producers The Dust Brothers and special guest Dave Grohl is anybody’s guess. I mean, just listen to Grohl play the drums on this stuff, exercising metal muscles unflexed since his Scream days. Behold the juvenile delinquent glee with which he resurrects a whole vocabulary of totally tasteless press rolls and paradiddles, the kind of Music Maker basement bozo chops that would’ve reduced Kurt and Krist to helpless tears of mirth. Dave, you fucken ROCK dude.
So, the optimum situation for playing this album in is at some kind of frat house initiation ceremony drunk out of your mind on applerot. Granted, like a lot of parody albums (as opposed to comedy ones) it may only be good for a few plays in specialised circumstances before the novelty wears off.
But fuck it, at the other end of the emotional and aesthetic spectrum, I only play some of my all-time favourite recordings – Lou’s Berlin or Miles’ Sketches Of Spain or Bonnie Prince Billy’s I See A Darkness – a couple of times a year, because that level of intensity can fry your brain on a daily basis. Sometimes you need static to block out the inhumanity, not hypersensitise your soul to it.
Tenacious D is one such blast of static. It made me and my invisible friends laugh out loud, repeatedly. For that, we are eternally grateful.