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Published: 2001/10/19
by Jesse Jarnow

self-titled – Tenacious D

Epic Records 85210

Tenacious D's dirty little secret has absolutely nothing to do with exploding assholes, hard fucking, Satan, or L. Ron Hubbard. Nay, Tenacious D's dirty little secret is the fact that they write really, really good fucking songs: songs that rock, songs with deadly hooks, songs with insanely catchy choruses. It's hard to say whether or not the fact that they are nominally a comedy act is superficial. Certainly, it's hard to pull off this kind of songwriting with a straight face in this day and age. It's nigh but impossible to escape unscathed from this album. A song, or a melodic fragment, will lodge itself into your skull like a guitar pick wielded as a throwing star. In the bargain, The D have also hit on something remarkable. They managed to build a fanbase years in advance of their first album without so much as touring. Their formula was simple: they simply got themselves a highly acclaimed show on HBO. Perhaps this will inspire future bands. Perhaps not. In any event, their show chronicled the shlumpy duo's fictional attempts at rockdom. There is something ridiculously charming about watching Jack Black and Kyle Gass play would-be rock anthems on two acoustic guitars, like an old Muppet Show number where Scooter strums a guitar alone in his room while imagining a rock band behind him.

And it is there that album finds its principle failure. Throughout their
Epic Records debut, The D are backed by an all-star band including former
Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl and Phish keyboardist Page McConnell. So much of
the The D's appeal – at least on the show – came in the imagined drum solos,
the invisible smoke machines, and the non-existent roadies. Actually having
a band is profoundly anti-climactic. The normally inventive production of
the Dust Brothers only seems to get in the way of the non-stop rocking that
The D are undoubtedly capable of.

Explaining why, precisely, the album is funny is surely an irrelevant task.
It is funny, far more so than Adam Sandler or any number of other
assholes who have laid obscenities over acoustic guitars. The comedy bits
between songs even hold up on repeated listenings. Well, most of 'em do,
anyway. Though they begin to get a bit strained towards the end of the disc,
Black's sheer magnetism carries the day and manages to translate flawlessly
to the aural realm. At any rate, they're necessary to convey just what The D
are all about: the relationship between JB and KG. It is a fault that the
record relies on different explanatory stories for the various songs than
the TV show did, thus breaking scene with The D's reality.

But, yeah. The D fucking rock.

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